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Terrorism & Security

North Korea prepared to restart talks, raising hope for eased tensions

Some say that while Pyongyang's preconditions are unrealistic, its statement provides a noteworthy change in recent tone.

By Staff writer / April 18, 2013

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un applauds as he visits an athletics contest held by North Korean universities, at a stadium in North Korea, Monday.

KCNA via KNS/AP

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Latin America Editor

Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.

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After tensions on the Korean Peninsula reached their highest in two decades, the North released a statement signaling a possible willingness for dialogue and end to weeks of hostility.

"Dialogue and war cannot co-exist," North Korea’s National Defense Commission said in an official statement today. “If the US and the South Korean puppets … genuinely want dialogue and negotiation, they should take these steps.”

The list of demands laid out by the North are extensive and not particularly realistic – including an end to US-South Korea annual war games, the elimination of all United Nations sanctions against the North, and the removal of US nuclear resources from the region. Seoul has called the conditions “illogical.”

But observers say the move is a positive, if small, development after weeks of nuclear threats against the US, South Korea, and Guam, reports The Washington Post.

“The U.S. and China have both expressed their intention to talk to North Korea. As China is likely to push hard for resuming dialogue, North Korea may not be able to resist it for long. They are trying to exit the current tensions,” Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University, told The Wall Street Journal.

“The tensions should gradually decrease from here, but we cannot lose ourselves” to complacency, added a South Korean defense ministry official who requested anonymity to convey government thinking. “We do still have to be prepared for any provocations,” the official told the Post.

Reuters notes that the North’s tactic here is a familiar one. Former leaders like Kim Jong-il would work to heighten threats of war and regional tension in an attempt to win concessions from the West. Many speculate the increased threats in recent weeks is in part due to North Korea's newest leader Kim Jong-un's desire to prove himself. The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this month:

North Korea watchers have begun to say that Kim Jong-un is showing he is definitely in charge of North Korea, that his leadership is bold and forceful, and that he is using his bellicosity in challenging the mighty United States to make himself a legendary figure for North Koreans, every bit as powerful and heroic as his father and grandfather, whose colossal statues and giant photos are found in every nook and cranny of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

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