After months of threatening to wage a nuclear war, North Korea did an about-face Sunday and issued a surprise proposal to the United States, its No. 1 enemy: Let’s talk.
But the invitation from North Korea’s National Defense Commission, the powerful governing body led by leader Kim Jong Un, comes with caveats: No preconditions and no demands that Pyongyang give up its prized nuclear assets unless Washington is willing to do the same — ground rules that make it hard for the Americans to accept.
Washington responded by saying that it is open to talks — but only if North Korea shows it will comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions and live up to its international obligations.
North Korea’s call for “senior-level” talks between the Korean War foes signals a shift in policy in Pyongyang after months of acrimony.
Pyongyang ramped up the anti-American rhetoric early this year after its launch of a long-range rocket in December and a nuclear test in February drew tightened U.N. and U.S. sanctions. Posters went up across the North Korean capital calling on citizens to “wipe away the American imperialist aggressors,” slogans that hadn’t been seen on city streets in years.
The U.S. and ally South Korea countered the provocations and threats by stepping up annual springtime military exercises, which prompted North Korea to warn of a “nuclear war” on the Korean Peninsula.