After years of posturing and months of increasing tensions around the Korean peninsula, North Korea indicated on Wednesday that they may be willing to budge on their policy of continued nuclear weapons development under U.S. and international sanctions.

In an interview for Indian television station WION, North Korea’s ambassador to India, Kye Chun Yong, indicated that North Korea’s Supreme Leader “is willing to talk” about the possibility of declaring a moratorium on any further nuclear weapons or ballistic missile tests, though there are, of course, some serious caveats to Kim’s apparent change of heart.

“Under certain circumstances, we are willing to talk in terms of the freezing of nuclear testing and missile testing,” Kye Chun Yong said during the interview.

The ambassador went on to claim that the North Korean government is prepared to commence talks with the United States at any time, though he noted that their willingness to meet does not mean they’re willing to meet any of Washington’s “preconditions” for such a negotiation.  As is in keeping with North Korea’s foreign policy standard, Kye instead demanded the United States meet their requirements in order to facilitate the meeting.

“If our demands is met [sic], we can negotiate in terms of the moratorium of such [programs] as weapons testing,” the diplomat said.

The primary demand Kye indicated North Korea would require in order to commence negotiations is an immediate cessation of any further joint military drills conducted with South Korea in the region.  Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime has repeatedly criticized the large-scale military drills the United States, South Korea, and often Japan participate in near the North Korean border, accusing them of being rehearsals for an invasion.

The United States has repeatedly disputed those claims, indicating that the exercises are defensive in nature, intended to prepare for the possibility of a North Korean invasion, as well as to serve as a strategic deterrent for North Korean aggression.  The United States maintains a military population that exceeds 28,000 troops in South Korea, with more stationed in nearby Japan.  The Korean peninsula has also seen at least one, but sometimes two, American carrier strike groups patrolling the waters of the Sea of Japan amid heightened tensions over North Korean missile tests and threats of preemptive strikes.

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This revelation came on the same day American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis both participated in high-level talks with Chinese officials intended to pressure China into increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on the reclusive state.  China accounts for a whopping ninety percent of North Korea’s import and export market, as well as serving as their only military ally.

Although President Trump has taken a diplomatic tone regarding China’s efforts to pursue a denuclearized North Korea in recent weeks, many have been critical of China’s apparent unwillingness to fully implement economic sanctions they have already agreed to, as well as their continued resistance to increasing the role they’re willing to play in the effort.

“We reiterated to China that they have a diplomatic responsibility to exert much greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime if they want to prevent further escalation in the region,” Tillerson said in a press conference on Wednesday.

 

Image courtesy of Reuters