North Korea has laid out its conditions for discussing denuclearization ahead of the next round of planned talks with the United States, striking a positive tone for North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump’s historic peace process.
In a statement published Monday by the official Korean Central News Agency, the director-general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s Department of U.S. Affairs said it was “fortunate that the U.S. has repeatedly expressed its stand to tackle an issue through dialogue and negotiations.” The statement noted that Washington’s approach could either “improve the relations” between it and Pyongyang or “add to the hostility towards each other, arguing there were “two options — crisis and chance” and it was “entirely up to the U.S.” to choose between the two.
“Clear and invariable is the DPRK’s stand,” the official was cited as saying. “The discussion of denuclearization may be possible when threats and hurdles endangering our system security and obstructing our development are clearly removed beyond all doubt.”
The exact meaning of that last phrase has at times proved an obstacle for the ongoing negotiations, with the U.S. pushing for a “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” without preconditions and North Korea first seeking sanctions relief and security guarantees. The two sides have yet to reach any agreement.
North Korea has long been the target of international sanctions due to its development of nuclear weapons, assets the ruling Kim dynasty has argued was necessary to deter a potential U.S. invasion. Washington and Pyongyang have never normalized ties since clashing during the 1950s Korean War in which the U.S. backed South Korea and China and the Soviet Union supported North Korea.
Still, both administrations have continued to express confidence in the other’s willingness to talk and South Korean newspaper Joongang Ilbo cited diplomatic sources Sunday as saying that Kim invited Trump to a fourth summit, possibly in Pyongyang, in his latest letter last month. Also on Monday, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency cited a State Department spokesperson as that the U.S. would “welcome the North Korean commitment to resume negotiations in late September” and was “prepared to have those discussions at a time and place to be agreed.”