North Korea has proposed talks with the US on denuclearization and the easing of tensions. The Obama administration has given a cautious response, saying the communist country would have to live up to its obligations.
North Korea's powerful National Defense Commission announced on Sunday that Pyongyang was ready to hold "broad and in-depth discussions" with the US on a range of issues, including the building of "a world without nuclear weapons."
The country warned, however, that talks cannot take place if the US continues to set preconditions for direct dialogue. Washington has repeatedly said that North Korea must take concrete steps to abandon its nuclear weapons program before negotiations can take place.
"If the US is truly interested in easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and securing peace and security in the region, including the US mainland, it should not speak about holding talks or making contact on the basis of preconditions," the North's Defense Commission said in a press release.
Tensions reached a crescendo on the Korean Peninsula early this year, after the North conducted its third nuclear test in February. In response to the test, the UN Security Council imposed tougher sanctions. The country reacted by threatening missile and nuclear strikes on the US and South Korea.
The Obama administration said Sunday it was receptive to North Korea's proposal for high-level talks, but wanted "credible negotiations" that would lead to a nuclear-free North.
In a television discussion on Sunday, Denis McDonough, President Barack Obama's chief of staff said: "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."
"I will say that the bottom line is they're not going to be able to talk their way out of the very significant sanctions they're under now," McDonough said.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement: "Our desire is to have credible negotiations with the North Koreans, but those talks must involve North Korea living up to its obligations to the world," including UN resolutions, and "ultimately result in denuclearization."
slk,jm/dr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)