North Korea reaches out to US with talk of peace treaty

North Korea repeated a longstanding call Monday for a peace treaty to replace the Korean War armistice, in an apparent bid to deal more closely with the US.

Lee Jae-Won/Reuters
Hur Chul (r.), director general of the South Korean foreign ministry's Korean Peninsula peace regime bureau, and Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea, pose before a meeting in Seoul on Monday.

North Korea called again for a Korean War peace treaty on Monday, in an apparent bid to deal more directly with the United States while putting off multilateral talks on its nuclear weapons program.

Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying a peace treaty would "help terminate the hostile relations" between North Korea and the US and “positively promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula at a rapid tempo."

The North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said the signatories of the Korean War armistice should negotiate a Korean War treaty to replace the armistice either in separate talks or during six-party talks. The latter, last held in Beijing in December 2008, include Japan, China, and Russia as well as the US and North and South Korea.

The reference to “signatories” in Monday’s statement left open the question of whether North Korea’s call for a peace treaty is an effort to bypass South Korea.

The US, China, and North Korea signed the Korean War armistice in July 1953, but South Korea’s Korean War president Rhee Syngman refused. He believed the armistice would mean permanent division of the Korean peninsula between North and South. For years North Korea has been calling for a peace treaty that would also likely include a call for US troops to leave South Korea.

The statement by North Korea ’s foreign ministry also included a demand that is sure to complicate any return to six-party talks.

It said the United Nations must do away with sanctions imposed after its missile test on April 15 and then strengthened in June after its May 25 nuclear test.

The talks "remain blocked by the barrier of distrust called sanctions," the statement said.

The US sent special envoy Stephen Bosworth to Pyongyang last month, but the high-level meeting between the two sides failed to bring North Korea back to the multilateral negotiations.

Meanwhile, US human rights envoy Robert King said Monday in Seoul that relations with North Korea depend on the North’s improving its “appalling” human rights record.

For years Pyongyang has denied charges of public executions, torture, and imprisonment of thousands of its citizens in a vast gulag system.

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