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N. Korea Offers Nuclear Test Ban in Exchange for Maneuvers Ban

  • VOA News

FILE - U.S. and South Korean Marines run from a South Korean assault amphibious vehicle during joint military exercises in Pohang, south of Seoul, April 26, 2013.

FILE - U.S. and South Korean Marines run from a South Korean assault amphibious vehicle during joint military exercises in Pohang, south of Seoul, April 26, 2013.

North Korea says it is willing to declare a temporary moratorium on nuclear testing if the United States scraps plans for joint military maneuvers held annually with South Korea.

The U.S. State Department, in a brief response Saturday, called the linking of possible nuclear testing with military drills "an implicit threat." Spokeswoman Jen Psaki called on Pyongyang to adhere to existing U.N. resolutions that prohibit such testing.

Psaki urged the North to "immediately cease all threats, reduce tensions and take the necessary steps toward denuclearization" needed to clear the way for future nuclear talks.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said its proposal was conveyed Friday through an unspecified relevant channel.

Pyongyang routinely calls the annual U.S.-South Korean military drills a pretext for invasion, despite assurances that the maneuvers are defensive in nature.

Many analysts say the drills, which have been conducted annually for nearly four decades, strain the already-frail North Korean economy, when Pyongyang diverts scarce resources to stage its own drills in response.

North Korea has conducted nuclear tests three times in the past decade, over vocal protests from Asian and Western governments, as well as the U.N. Security Council.

The North quit multiparty denuclearization talks in 2009, ahead of a new round of testing that sparked a series of U.S. economic sanctions.

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