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North Korea changes stance, tells United States: Let's talk

By Jean H. Lee

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, June 16 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

But for Washington, there will be no talks just for talks' sake, officials say.

Speaking on CBS television's "Face the Nation" show Sunday, President Barack Obama's chief of staff, Denis McDonough, said Washington has been "quite clear" that officials support dialogue and have engaged Pyongyang in talks in the past.

But "those talks have to be real. They have to be based on them living up to their obligations, to include on proliferation, on nuclear weapons, on smuggling and other things," he said. "And so we'll judge them by their actions, not by the nice words that we heard yesterday."

He said smooth talk will not help Pyongyang evade U.N. sanctions supported by Moscow and Beijing, North Korea's two traditional allies. U.N. Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from developing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Earlier this year, Kim Jong Un enshrined the drive to build a nuclear arsenal, as well as expand the economy, in North Korea's constitution. Pyongyang, estimated to have a handful of crude nuclear devices, says it needs to build atomic weapons to defend itself against what it sees as a U.S. nuclear threat in Korea and the region.

The National Defense Commission reiterated its refusal to give up its nuclear ambitions until the entire Korean Peninsula is free of nuclear weapons, a spokesman said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

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

The U.S. denies having nuclear bombs in South Korea, saying they were removed in 1991. However, the U.S. military keeps nuclear submarines in the region and has deployed them for military exercises with South Korea.

After blaming Washington for raising tensions by imposing "gangster-like sanctions" on North Korea, the spokesman called on the U.S. to propose a venue and date for talks — but warned against setting preconditions.

Washington has been burned in the past by efforts to reach out to Pyongyang.

Months of behind-the-scenes negotiations yielded a significant food-for-disarmament deal in February 2012, but that was scuttled by a failed North Korean long-range rocket launch just weeks later.

Associated Press writers Youkyung Lee in Seoul, South Korea, and Tom Strong in Washington, contributed to this report. Follow AP's Korea bureau chief on Twitter at twitter.com/newsjean.

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