SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea proposed peace talks to formally end the Korean War, saying Monday that improved ties with the United States and an end to sanctions are conditions for resuming international negotiations aimed at ridding it of nuclear weapons.
The North’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the resumption of the six-nation nuclear talks depends on building confidence between Pyongyang and Washington and called for a peace treaty, which it has long demanded.
“It is our conclusion that it is necessary to pay primary attention to building confidence between (North Korea) and the United States, the parties chiefly responsible for the nuclear issue, in order to bring back the process for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula on track,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said it “courteously proposes to the parties to the armistice agreement an early start of the talks” to replace it with a peace treaty.
The 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, thus leaving the peninsula technically at war. North Korea, the U.S. and China are signatories to the cease-fire, while South Korea has never signed the accord.
North Korea pulled out of the six-party nuclear talks with the U.S., China, South Korea, Russia and Japan last year after international criticism of a long-range rocket launch that drew U.N. sanctions.
President Barack Obama’s special envoy for North Korea, however, said last month following a landmark trip to Pyongyang that the North has agreed on the need to return to the talks, though the country has not said when it would rejoin the forum.
The talks began in 2003, and in 2005 and 2007 there were agreements on a disarmament pact which calls for North Korea to end its nuclear programs in exchange for economic aid, security assurances and diplomatic recognition.
The North’s call came as Obama’s special envoy for human rights in the communist country harshly criticized it Monday and said that the situation is preventing a normalization of relations.
“It’s one of the worst places in terms of lack of human rights,” Robert King told reporters after meeting South Korea’s foreign minister. “The situation is appalling.”
Associated Press Writer Kelly Olsen contributed to this report.