In a change of direction following weeks of continuous warlike threats, North Korea has made known its demands if the United States and South Korea wish for it to come to the dialogue table. At the top of its list was the lifting of UN sanctions that have been in place since North Korea went through with its third nuclear weapons test. It also mentioned that any discussion on denuclearization could only start when the U.S. withdraws the nuclear weapons it has deployed in the Korean peninsula.
The statement by the National Defense Commission was issued on Thursday and carried by the state-run KCNA news agency. “Dialogue and war cannot co-exist,” the statement said. “If the United States 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. While this is a sharp change from the hermit nation’s demeanor in the past few weeks, its demands are a long ways away from what the U.S. has set as pre-conditions for dialogue, that North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang’s statements have been clear about this issue, in that it deems its nuclear arms development a “treasured sword”, stating multiple times that it would never give it up. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was recently in the region for multiple talks with different Asian nations, stressed that the U.S. would always be interested in a way to bring North Korea back into dialogue. South Korea has also proposed talks, but the North has ignored this, calling the offer “insincere”.
Kerry was, however, very clear in that the U.S. will not go down an “old road” – with North Korea making threats as a way to secure concessions from the United States and South Korea. The isolated state has had a history of repeating this process for its own gains. “Let me just make it clear, I have no desire as secretary of state and the president has no desire to do the same horse trade or go down the old road,” Kerry said in Washington on Wednesday. South Korean President Park Geun-hye made a similar point saying “We must break the vicious cycle of holding negotiations and providing assistance if North Korea makes threats and provocations, and again holding negotiations and providing assistance if there are threats and provocations.”