North Korea has offered the United States and South Korea a list of conditions for talks, including the lifting of United Nations’ sanctions.
However the White House has said it is awaiting “clear signals” that Kim Jong-un would halt his nuclear tests.
In a sign of a possible end to weeks of heightened hostility on the Korean peninsula, the North’s top military body yesterday said denuclearisation would begin when the US removed nuclear weapons it claims have been deployed in the region.
The move was probably a conciliatory gesture to China, North Korea’s only major supporter, which has signalled its unease over Mr Kim’s escalating threats and said talks were the only way to end the tensions.
“Dialogue and war cannot co-exist,” the North’s National Defence Commission said in an official statement.
“If the US and the puppet South have the slightest desire to avoid the sledge-hammer blow of our army and the people …and truly wish dialogue and negotiations, they must make the resolute decision,” it said.
The US has offered talks, but only on the pre-condition that they lead to North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons ambitions. Although the North signed a denuclearisation-for-aid deal in 2005, it later backed out of that pact and now deems its nuclear arms a “treasured sword” that it will never give up.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said North Korea would first need to show it is serious about abandoning its nuclear ambitions for talks to be meaningful.
“We’re open to credible, authentic negotiations, but that’s going to require clear signals from the North Korean regime, signals we haven’t seen so far,” he said.