Is Trump about to have his biggest diplomatic victory yet?
According to Yonhap, North Korea’s top envoy to India on Wednesday offered a conditional moratorium, i.e. halt, on his country’s nuclear and missile tests in what was said to be an “apparent bid to hold talks with the United States.” While the North Korean offer is conditional, its “demands” are hardly outrageous.
North Korea Ambassador to India Kye Chun-yong said Pyongyang is willing to talk in terms of freezing its nuclear and missile tests under certain circumstances. “If our demands is met, we can negotiate in terms of the moratorium of such as weapons testing,” Kye said in English in an interview posted on the website of India’s television station WION.
He suggested that one of the key demands is the halt of the U.S. joint military drills with South Korea, which Pyongyang denounced as a rehearsal for invasion. Seoul and Washington say their annual exercises are defensive in nature.
This could be a potential hurdle, as South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in said Seoul has no plans to scale back joint military exercises with Washington, according to an interview with U.S. broadcaster CBS. Moon dismissed as personal views his adviser’s recent remarks in Washington that South Korea and the U.S. may consider scaling back their joint military exercises in exchange for North Korea freezing its nuclear and missile development programs. Moon has repeatedly stated he is willing to engage North Korea diplomatically, and now that the first negotiating bid has been made by Pyongyang, their rest may be simple protocol.
That said, this wouldn’t be the first such “moratorium”: in February 2012, North Korea agreed to temporarily put a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests and freeze its uranium-enrichment facilities in exchange for 240,000 tons of food aid from the U.S. But the deal unraveled two months later as North Korea made an unsuccessful attempt to launch what it claims was a rocket to put an earth observation satellite into orbit.
South Korea, the U.S. and other regional powers said it was a cover for testing the North’s ballistic missile technology, which is banned under a U.N. resolution.
In recent years, North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests and dozens of missile tests as it seeks to develop a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S. Despite sanctions and pressure, North Korea has repeatedly vowed to further develop its missile and nuclear weapons program, viewing it as a deterrent against what it claims is Washington’s hostile policy against it.