North Korea sets tough preconditions for talks

North Korea sets tough preconditions for talks

PYONGYANG - The Associated Press
North Korea sets tough preconditions for talks

USS Freedom, a US warship, arrives in Singapore amid tension. AFP Photo

North Korea has demanded  the withdrawal of U.N. sanctions and the end of U.S.-South Korea military drills as conditions for resuming talks meant to defuse tension on the Korean Peninsula.

The statement from the Policy Department of the National Defense Commission, the country’s top governing body, came four days after Pyongyang rejected Seoul’s latest dialogue offer as insincere.

The U.S. says it is prepared to talk to the North but Pyongyang must first bring down tensions and honor previous disarmament agreements.

Swift rebuff from Seoul

“Dialogue can never go with war actions,” said the statement, which was carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Before the talks can resume, the statement said the U.S. must also withdraw all nuclear weapons assets from South Korea and the region. It said South Korea, for its part, must stop all anti-North Korea talks.

Later in the day, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the North’s demand as illogical.

“We again strongly urge North Korea to stop this kind of insistence that we cannot totally understand and go down the path of a wise choice,” spokesman Cho Tai-young told reporters.

In recent weeks, North Korea has ratcheted up tension on the divided peninsula, threatening to attack the U.S. and South Korea over the military drills and sanctions imposed for its February nuclear test.

US warship in Singapore

SINGAPORE – Agence France-Presse

A U.S. warship designed to fight in coastal areas arrived in Singapore on April 18 for its Southeast Asian deployment, underlining President Barack Obama’s new strategic focus on Asia.

U.S. Navy officials said the Freedom, a new class of vessel called the littoral combat ship (LCS), sailed into Changi Naval Base in Singapore, a long-standing U.S. ally that assists in logistics and exercises for forces in Southeast Asia.

The ship, the U.S. Navy’s first LCS which is designed to fight close to the shore, will be deployed for the next eight months in the region, where it will participate in naval exercises and visit other ports.