North Korea has said it is ready to negotiate if the US and South Korea cease military drills and UN sanctions are lifted.
A declaration from North Korea’s top military body also said that de-nuclearisation would begin when the US removes nuclear weapons that it claims are deployed in the region.
The statement, issued through the official news agency KCNA, said “Dialogue and war cannot co-exist…If the United States and the puppet South have the slightest desire to avoid the sledge hammer blow of our army and the people…they must make the resolute decision.”
The South has described the demands as “regretful” and “absurd”. Spokesperson Cho Tai-young said: “We strongly urge the North to stop making such incomprehensible demands and to make the wise choice we have repeatedly urged.”
The war threats began following UN sanctions that toughened existing measures on North Korea after it tested a third nuclear weapon. In recent weeks the North has threatened to attack South Korea, Japan and US bases in the area.
The US has offered talks but only under the condition that all nuclear weapon ambitions are abandoned. The North has rejected the idea, calling its nuclear arms a “treasured sword”.
This week South Korea also attempted to start a dialogue regarding the Kaesong region but the proposal was met with hostility, calling the offer a “crafty ploy”.
In the past North Korea has made threats to secure concessions from the US and South Korea. US Secretary of State John Kerry insisted this would have to stop: “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,” he said.
The North’s announced terms are thought to be an attempt to appease China, its only major backer, which is growing increasingly uneasy over the threats of war.
China backed North Korea in the 1950-1953 civil war against the US-backed South, but now it is encouraging a peaceful solution. Hua Chunying, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said it was in everyone’s interests to see the de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula adding, “We believe that dialogue and consultation is the only correct way to resolve matters.”