North Korea says it is open to talks with South Korea if conditions are met.
“There is no reason to avoid dialogue and negotiations if an atmosphere for trust and reconciliation is created,” the North said Monday in a government statement, the highest level of statement from Pyongyang.
The statement spelled out conditions for the talks. The North demanded that the South end joint military drills with the United States. It also called on the South to stop anti-Pyongyang leaflets and lift sanctions.
The North made the offer on the 15th anniversary of a joint declaration adopted during the landmark inter-Korean summit in 2000. The statement calls for reconciliation between North and South Korea, and unification of the two Koreas to be settled independently by the Korean nation itself.
These conditions are not new, and the South responded coolly to the North’s overture, urging the communist country to drop preconditions for dialogue.
“The North should come to the dialogue table and respond to private exchanges that contribute to recovering homogeneity between the two sides without setting unreasonable preconditions,” said Park Soo-jin, deputy spokesperson for South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
Park called on the North to “immediately stop actions that create military tension on the peninsula,” in what appeared to be a reference to the North’s latest missile launches.
On Sunday, the North test-fired three short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan.
Analysts in Seoul say the South is skeptical the North is genuinely interested in talks.
A South Korean official who asked to remain anonymous told the VOA Korean Service the North is trying to stir internal conflicts in the South and blame the South for straining inter-Korean relations.
Another official said the North’s statement was part of efforts by the North Korean regime to promote Kim Jong Un’s achievement that Kim tried to improve ties with the South.
However, some analysts see a slight change in the North’s stance from the latest statement.
Jang Yong-seok, senior researcher at Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, said the North’s position has changed from “We cannot have a dialogue because conditions are not met,” to “Let’s create a condition in which we can have a dialogue.”
High-level talks between North and South Korea have been stalled since February 2014.
Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report.