North Korea has called for an official peace treaty with the US in an effort to accelerate nuclear talks and remove sanctions. The US, however, has responded with mixed signals, criticizing North Korea’s “appalling” human rights record and adding that complete nuclear disarmament would also be a condition of any peace treaty.
The US and North Korea have technically been in a state of war since the 1950-53 war ended with a ceasefire, but not a treaty. If an official peace settlement can be reached, it could pave the way for six-party nuclear talks between North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the US. North Korea boycotted such talks last spring after it announced that it conducted a long range missile test.
A press release from North Korea’s foreign ministry said that the absence of a peace deal with the US has contributed to the hostile relations between both nations, reports The Guardian. The statement added that talks about a peace treaty could come as part of a six-nation conference, or as a separate meeting.
“If confidence is to be built between [North Korea] and the US, it is essential to conclude a peace treaty for terminating the state of war, a root cause of the hostile relations, to begin with," the official Korean Central News Agency quoted the foreign ministry as saying.
"The removal of the barrier of such discrimination and distrust as sanctions may soon lead to the opening of the six-party talks.
North Korean officials also said that they would readily resume six-way talks again if the UN Security Council lifted the international sanctions it imposed on the nation last year, reports The Korea Times.
After Stephen Bosworth, the US head nuclear negotiator, visited to Pyongyang in December, The Korea Herald reported that the US has indicated it may be willing to discuss a peace treaty with North Korea. However, both American and South Korean officials have said that Seoul must be included in any official peace talks.
Robert King, the new US special envoy for North Korea, has said that the US may be reluctant to strengthen ties with Pyongyang unless the communist nation changes from what Mr. King described as “one of the worst places in terms of lack of human rights.” The BBC reports that at a press conference, King told reporters that the US will not alter its relationship with North Korea without a frank discussion of human rights.
South Korean officials have expressed skepticism about the motives behind North Korea’s call for a peace treaty. In an interview with the Yonhap News Agency, South Korea’s foreign minister, Yu Myung-hwan, said that Pyongyang’s push for a treaty could be an attempt to delay talks about ending its nuclear program. Also according to Yonhap, another ministry official, asking not to be identified, said: "We have to consider the proposal in greater depth before deciding on how to perceive it, but the format for talks on a peace treaty that was agreed to by the six parties of the nuclear negotiations was for a forum separate from the six-party talks."
The Christian Science Monitor