North Korea leans toward talks, but restates intention to keep nuclear weapons

North Korea has exhibited signs it may be willing to discuss some nuclear disarmament, and negotiate to lift U.N. sanctions. But Saturday, the country reiterated its intention not to completely denuclearize.  

Alexander F. Yuan/AP
Morning commuters walk past a poster showing weapons targeting the White House on a street in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday. The poster reads: 'Not by words, but only through arms.'

North Korea reiterated on Saturday that it would not give up its nuclear weapons, rejecting a US condition for talks although it said it was willing to discuss disarmament.

North Korea, in a sign of a possible end to weeks of heightened hostility on the Korean peninsula, offered the United States and South Korea a list of conditions on Thursday for talks, including the lifting of U.N. sanctions.

But the United States said it was awaiting "clear signals" that North Korea would halt its nuclear weapons activities.

"The US should not think about the denuclearization on the peninsula before the world is denuclearised," the North's state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary.

"There may be talks between the DPRK and the US for disarmament but no talks on denuclearisation," it said. North Korea's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

North Korea signed a denuclearisation-for-aid deal in 2005 but later backed out of that pact. It now says its nuclear arms are a "treasured sword" that it will never give up.

It conducted its third nuclear test in February.

The test triggered new U.N. sanctions which in turn led to a dramatic intensification of North Korea's threats of nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States.

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited China, South Korea and Japan this month for talks on North Korea and stressed his interest in a diplomatic solution to the tension on the peninsula.

He later told a US Senate hearing that North Korea's list of conditions was "at least a beginning gambit", but added that it was "not acceptable, obviously, and we have to go further".

The Rodong Sinmun said US talk of dialogue was "nothing but rhetoric".

North Korea has a long record of making threats to secure concessions from the United States and South Korea, only to repeat the process later. Both the United States and the South have said in recent days that the cycle must cease.

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