After months of threatening to wage a nuclear war, North Korea did an about-face on Sunday and issued a surprise proposal to the United States — Let’s talk.
But the invitation from North Korea’s National Defence Commission, the powerful governing body led by leader Kim Jong Un, comes with caveats — No pre-conditions and no demands that Pyongyang give up its prized nuclear assets unless Washington is willing to do the same ground rules that make it hard for the Americans to accept.
Washington responded by saying that it is open to talks but only if North Korea shows it will comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions and live up to its international obligations.
“As we have made clear, our desire is to have credible negotiations with the North Koreans, but those talks must involve North Korea living up to its obligations to the world, including compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions, and ultimately result in denuclearisation,” U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. “We will judge North Korea by its actions, and not its words and look forward to seeing steps that show North Korea is ready to abide by its commitments and obligations.”
Meanwhile, the virulent anti-American billboards plastered across the city were taken down. And on Sunday, as scores of people fanned out across Pyongyang to help carry out the latest urban renewal projects in the capital landscaping and construction the National Defence Commission issued a statement through state media proposing talks with the U.S. to ease tensions and discuss a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War.
One army officer, a director at the top military academy for North Korean youths, said he read about the proposal for talks in the newspaper.
“If they have talks and they go well, that’s good,” Jang Chun Hyon said Monday at the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School. “But we in the army will firmly hold onto our rifles and be ready to fight whether the talks are going smoothly or not.”
“De-nuclearisation can only be realized if the U.S. can guarantee that the whole peninsula is de-nuclearised,” he said, repeating what he read in the paper. “The hostile U.S. should forget their anti-republic policies.”
North Korea fought against U.S.-led United Nations and South Korean troops during the three-year Korean War in the early 1950s, and Pyongyang does not have diplomatic relations with either government. The Korean Peninsula remains divided by a heavily fortified border.
Reunifying the peninsula was a major goal of North Korea’s two late leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and is a legacy inherited by current leader Kim Jong Un. North Korea is expected to draw attention to Korea’s division in the weeks leading up to the 60th anniversary in July marking the close of the Korean conflict, which ended in an armistice. A peace treaty has never been signed formally ending the war.