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US considers North Korea offer of talks

Washington to hold meetings with South Korea and Japan to discuss Pyongyang call for discussion aimed at easing tension.

Last Modified: 16 Jun 2013 15:12
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Officials from the United States, South Korea and Japan will meet in Washington this week to discuss North Korea's offer to hold high-level talks.

A senior US administration official said on Sunday that the meetings would take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We will be meeting with our Japanese and South Korean partners in a trilateral setting and this will be one of the
subjects for discussion," the official said.

North Korea proposed high-level talks with the US on security in the region and the nuclear weapons issue, with the aim of easing tension on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea's National Defence Commission said in a written statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency on Sunday that the North was willing to have "serious discussions on a wide range of issues, including the US goal to achieve the world free of nuclear arsenal", as it urged the US to set the time and venue for the talks.

The White House said earlier it was open to talks with North Korea but Pyongyang must comply with UN Security Council resolutions and ultimately agree to denuclearisation.

Subsiding tensions

The invite comes days after the North reportedly called off talks with South Korea.

But overall, the rare proposal comes amid subsiding tensions, which softened in May and June, as Pyongyang made overtures to re-establish dialogue with South Korea and the US.

In a notable shift in propaganda in Pyongyang, posters and billboards calling on North Koreans to "wipe away the American imperialist aggressors" have been taken down in recent weeks.

Al Jazeera talks to N Korea expert Robert Kelly

Foreign analysts say impoverished North Korea often expresses interest in talks after raising tensions with provocative behaviour in order to win outside concessions.

The Korean Peninsula remains divided by a heavily fortified border.

North Korea is expected to draw attention to Korea's division in the weeks leading up to the 60th anniversary in July of the close of the Korean conflict, which ended in an armistice.

A peace treaty has never been signed formally ending the war.

Nuclear woes

Washington's biggest worry is North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. Pyongyang is estimated to have a handful of crude nuclear devices and has been working toward building a bomb it can mount on a missile capable of striking the US.

Earlier this year, Kim Jong-un, North Korea's leader, formalised the drive to build a nuclear arsenal, as well as growing the economy, as national goals.

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Follow coverage of escalating threats in Northeast Asia

Pyongyang claims the need to build atomic weapons to defend the country against what it sees as a US nuclear threat in Korea and the region. 

North Korea will not give up its nuclear ambitions until the entire Korean Peninsula is free of nuclear weapons, a spokesman from the North's National Defence Commission said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

"The denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula does not only mean dismantling the nuclear weapons of the North," the spokesman said, but also should involve "denuclearising the whole peninsula, including South Korea, and aims at totally ending the US nuclear threats" to North Korea.

After blaming Washington for raising tensions, he called on the US to set the venue and date for talks.

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Source:
Agencies
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