SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Saturday it was willing to suspend nuclear tests if the United States agreed to call off annual military drills held jointly with South Korea, saying the exercises were the main reason for tension on the Korean peninsula.
The proposal, which the North’s official KCNA news agency said was conveyed to Washington on Friday through “a relevant channel”, follows an often-repeated demand by Pyongyang for an end to the large-scale defensive drills by the allies.
“The message proposed (that) the US contribute to easing tension on the Korean peninsula by temporarily suspending joint military exercises in South Korea and its vicinity this year,” KCNA said in a report.
“(The message) said that in this case the DPRK is ready to take such a responsive step as temporarily suspending the nuclear test over which the US is concerned,” KCNA said, using the short form for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, the last in February 2013, and is under layers of UN sanctions for defying international warnings not to set off atomic devices in pursuit of a nuclear arsenal, which Pyongyang calls its “sacred sword”.