North Korea, after canceling its first scheduled talks with South Korea in two years last week, has offered high-level talks with the United States to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Reuters reported Sunday.
Last week, North Korea called off talks with the South, alleging that Seoul had scuttled the discussions that were to mend estranged ties between the two countries. But just days later, North Korea is asking the United States for direct negotiations.
A statement from the North Korea National Defense Commission, published by the official Korean Central News Agency news agency on Sunday, said Washington can pick a date and place for talks and the two sides can discuss a range of issues, according to Reuters.
"In order to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and to achieve regional peace and safety, we propose to hold high-level talks between the DPRK and the United States, " said the spokesman of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "If the U.S. is truly interested in securing regional peace and safety and easing tensions, it should not mention any preconditions for the talks."
Washington has become skeptical of any peace moves by Pyongyang as the country has repeatedly backed out of deals, the latest in 2012 when it agreed to a missile and nuclear test moratorium, only to fire a rocket weeks later. Earlier this year, North Korea threated nuclear attacks against South Korean and the U.S. after it was hit by the United Nations sanctions for its February nuclear weapons test.
"North Korea's proposal for dialogue to the U.S. is all part of the game to get economic aid as U.N. sanctions were tougher than before," said Kim Seung-hwan, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
China, North Korea’s only major ally, has urged North Korea to denuclearize. During the recent summit between China and the U.S., President Barack Obama and the Chinese President Xi Jinping were on the same page regarding North Korea’s nuclear development, Kim said.
Pyongyang agreed to a denuclearization-for-aid deal in 2005, but backed out later. It has said its nuclear arms are a “treasured sword” that it will not abandon, notes Reuters.