North Korea on Saturday lambasted the US for attaching preconditions to any dialogue between the states, as Seoul prepares to send an envoy to Pyongyang to help open talks on easing the nuclear stand-off on the peninsula.
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A spokesperson for the North’s foreign ministry said a dialogue with the US is “possible”, but added that Pyongyang is open to talks only “on an equal footing” and will not give up its nuclear and missile programmes to come to the table.
In the decades-long history of North-US talks, “there had been no case at all where we sat with the US on any precondition, and this will be the case in future, too”, the spokesperson was quoted as saying by the North’s KCNA news agency.
“We have intention to resolve issues in a diplomatic and peaceful way through dialogue and negotiation, but we will neither beg for dialogue nor evade the military option claimed by the US”, he said.
Pyongyang has long expressed its desire to talk to Washington without preconditions.
But the US says it must first take concrete steps toward disarming, and has ruled out any possibility of talks before Pyongyang — which last year staged multiple missile and nuclear tests — moves towards denuclearisation.
US officials also fret that the North’s offer of talks could be an effort to drive a wedge between Washington and its ally Seoul.
Pyongyang’s latest message comes as Seoul prepares to send an envoy to the North to help open talks on easing the nuclear stand-off, the most recent development in the Olympic-driven detente between the two Koreas.
The marked rapprochement saw the two Koreas march into the Games opening ceremony together behind a unification flag, and Moon share a historic handshake with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong.
Moon has sought to use the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics that ended last Sunday to open dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang, while the North mounted a charm offensive during the Games, sending athletes, cheerleaders and high-level delegations.
Moon, who advocates dialogue with the North to defuse tension, said on Monday that Washington needs to “lower the threshold for talks” with the North.
In a meeting with North Korean General Kim Yong Chol on Sunday, Moon also urged the North to open dialogue with the US as soon as possible — to which Kim responded by saying the North was “very willing” to hold talks.
But the White House earlier this week reaffirmed that denuclearisation is a key part of any dialogue with Pyongyang.
“President Trump and President Moon noted their firm position that any dialogue with North Korea must be conducted with the explicit and unwavering goal of complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation,” it said in a readout.
There was no known interaction between the North and the US during the Games and Washington last week imposed what Trump described as the “heaviest ever” sanctions on the isolated regime.