North Korea offers 'high-level talks' with US

Pyongyang calls on US to set time and venue for talks to help ease tensions on peninsula, North's state media reports.

    North Korea has proposed high-level talks with the US aimed at discussing the countries' nuclear weapons programmes and easing tension on the peninsula, state media has said.

    "We propose high-level talks between the North and the US to secure peace and stability in the region and ease tension on the Korean peninsula," the North's National Defence Commission said in a statement on Sunday, carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

    The North is willing to have "serious discussions on a wide range of issues, including the US goal to achieve the world free of nuclear arsenal", it said, urging the US to set the time and venue for the talks.

    There was no immediate response from Washington, but President Barack Obama's envoy on North Korea said on Friday that while the US is not averse to talking with Pyongyang, the bar for resuming engagement is higher in the wake of repeated threats and provocations.

    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 marking 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, enshrined the drive to build a nuclear arsenal, as well as growing the economy, as national goals.

    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.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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