SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said Saturday that it’s willing to begin a dialogue with the United States on “issues of mutual concern” but that it would not accept any preconditions for starting such talks.
The statement came days after President Donald Trump said Monday that his administration could enter talks with North Korea, but “only under the right conditions.” That meant North Korea must first commit to denuclearization, U.S. officials have said.
North Korea, however, said Saturday that talks needed to be based on “an equal footing between states.”
“The dialogue we desire is the one designed to discuss and resolve the issues of mutual concern on an equal footing between states,” the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying. “There had been no case at all where we sat with the U.S. on any precondition, and this will be the case in the future, too.”
The remarks reflected North Korea’s long-standing insistence that it would engage Washington only if it is treated like an equal as a nuclear power. North Korea claimed to have a state nuclear force after conducting its sixth nuclear test and test-launching intercontinental ballistic missiles last year.
U.S. officials have said that North Korea has used past negotiations to win economic concessions while continuing to advance its nuclear weapons program. They’ve insisted that this time, they would not start a dialogue until the North first took steps that would convince them of its willingness to negotiate away its nuclear weapons.
Vowing not to repeat mistakes, the Trump administration has said that even if talks started, it would maintain its “maximum” pressure and sanctions campaign until North Korea denuclearized. Trump has also threatened to use military force if diplomacy fails to end the nuclear crisis.
For its part, North Korea said it would not give up its nuclear weapons, arguing that it has been driven to develop a nuclear deterrent because of U.S. “hostility.” It demanded that Washington first accept it as a nuclear power before discussing ways of easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has urged both the United States and North Korea to soften their stances so talks could begin on defusing the crisis, which appeared to push the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war in the past year. He planned to send a special envoy to North Korea soon to find ways to narrow the gap between the U.S. and North Korea over the terms under which they could start a dialogue.
“We have intentions to resolve issues in a diplomatic and peaceful way through dialogue and negotiation, but we will neither beg for dialogue nor evade the military option claimed by the U.S.,” the North Korean spokesman said Saturday. “We have full capability and will to confront any option favored by the U.S.”