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(4th LD) N.K. unveils U.S. proposal of Dec. talks, repeats call for new solution

All Headlines 02:14 November 15, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with State Department response in paras 11-12; CHANGES dateline)

SEOUL/WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (Yonhap) -- The United States offered talks with North Korea in December, but Pyongyang is willing to engage only if Washington first unveils a fundamental solution to resolve the nuclear impasse, the North's top nuclear envoy said Thursday.

In a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the North's chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Myong-gil, disclosed that his U.S. counterpart, Stephen Biegun, recently proposed holding a meeting next month via a third country.

"If the negotiated solution of issues is possible, we are ready to meet with the U.S. at any place and any time," Kim said.

But he also pressed the U.S. to put forth a "basic" solution before sitting down for talks.

The envoy warned that he is not willing to hold negotiations if the U.S. seeks to "appease" North Korea in order to pass the deadline as it did during their working-level talks in Stockholm in October.

Washington and Pyongyang resumed negotiations in the Swedish capital last month after months of stalemate, but the talks broke down with the North accusing the U.S. of failing to come up with a new proposal.

This file photo taken on Oct. 7, 2019, shows Kim Myong-gil (R), North Korea's top nuclear negotiator, arriving in Beijing en route to Pyongyang after working-level talks with U.S. officials in Stockholm on Oct. 5. (Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has set the year-end deadline for the U.S. for a proposal on North Korea agreeing to denuclearize in exchange for economic and political concessions.

The negotiations have been stagnant since the summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump ended without a deal in February in Vietnam.

North Korea's nuke envoy said there will be no possibility for resolving the current impasse if Washington seeks to discuss secondary issues, such as a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War or the establishment of a liaison office.

"I intuitively feel that the U.S. is not ready to give a satisfactory answer to us and its proposal for dialogue with us is a trick to earn time through the orchestration of DPRK-U.S. meeting," Kim said, referring to the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The U.S. State Department reiterated its position without addressing the envoy's specific comments.

"President Trump remains committed to making progress toward the Singapore commitments of transformed relations, building lasting peace, and complete denuclearization," a department spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency, referring to the first summit between Trump and Kim held in Singapore in June 2018.

Also Thursday, a top North Korean official issued a positive reaction to U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper's remark that he is open to altering military activity in South Korea if it helps diplomatic efforts to make North Korea give up its nuclear weapons.

"We will adjust our exercise posture, either more or less, depending on what diplomacy may require," Esper told reporters flying with him to Seoul Wednesday for annual defense talks with Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo.

Esper's remark came after the North demanded the U.S. cancel planned joint military drills with South Korea, warning otherwise it would face a "greater threat."

The North issued a rare quick response to Esper's remarks, assessing them as "positive" efforts by Washington to resume the stalled dialogue with the North.

"I would like to believe that the U.S. defense minister's remarks reflect U.S. President Trump's thought and assess them as part of Washington's positive efforts to revive momentum for dialogue between North Korea and the U.S.," Kim Yong-chol, a former North Korean nuclear negotiator, said in a statement carried by the KCNA.

He currently heads the Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee.

Kim warned that if the U.S. carries out provocative acts against the North, his country will respond with strong retribution that Washington cannot endure.

North Korea has long denounced Seoul and Washington's military drills as a rehearsal for an invasion of the North, calling on the U.S. to end its hostile policy. The allies say that the exercises are defensive in nature.

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