N. Korea’s Peace Talks Proposal Meets With U.S. Skepticism

North Korea’s proposal for bilateral peace talks spurred a skeptical response from the U.S., days after the totalitarian regime failed to follow through on an approach to South Korea for discussions over a shut factory park.

“We’ll judge them by their actions, not by the nice words that we heard,” White House Chief of Staff Denis Mcdonough said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “The bottom line is they’re not going to be able to talk their way out of the very significant sanctions they’re under now, sanctions that Russia supported and, very importantly, that China supported.”

North Korea’s offer yesterday was the second time this month it has reached out, after it requested talks with the South over a jointly-operated Gaeseong industrial complex. Tensions on the Korean peninsula were heightened earlier this year by the regime’s February nuclear weapons test, with the United Nations slapping the North with tougher sanctions.

“The talks with the U.S. will not happen, as North Korea has no desire to denuclearize in a way that the Americans want it to,” Andrei Lankov, a professor at Seoul’s Kookmin University, said by phone today. North Korea may instigate another round of crisis rhetoric if it doesn’t secure negotiations, with aid its ultimate goal from talks, he said.

South Korea’s benchmark Kospi stock index fell 0.3 percent to close at 1,883.10 while the won ended unchanged against the dollar.

Conflict Resolution

There is “virtually no possibility” of talks between the U.S. and North Korea, especially at the exclusion of the South, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl Jae told lawmakers today in parliament.

North Korea’s envoy Choe Ryong Hae told Chinese President Xi Jinping last month his country wants to find ways to resolve conflicts via talks. In a statement about Choe’s meeting with another top Chinese official in Beijing, Xinhua News Agency said the North “is willing to accept advice from the Chinese side and carry out dialogue.”

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui will meet his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye Kwan in Beijing on June 19 for talks, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing in Beijing today.

“China is highly concerned about the situation on the Korean Peninsula and has been pushing all parties concerned to resume dialogue and consultation to solve this issue,” Hua said.

Reopening Gaeseong

The North’s June 6 suggestion of “high-level” talks with South Korea over reopening Gaeseong came one day before U.S. President Barack Obama met Xi in California. The leaders had “quite a bit of alignment” on stopping North Korea’s nuclear program, according to White House national security adviser Tom Donilon.

Obama called South Korean President Park Geun Hye today to discuss the North Korean issue and to share the outcome of his meeting with Xi, as Park readies to meet the Chinese president in Beijing on June 27-30, Park’s office said in a statement on its website. Obama told Park that Xi emphasized the importance of resolution through dialogue, according to the statement.

‘Credible Negotiations’

Glyn Davies, the top U.S. envoy on North Korea, will hold talks with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts this week in Washington, according to the U.S. State Department.

“As we have made clear, our desire is to have credible negotiations with the North Koreans, but those talks must involve North Korea living up to its obligations to the world, including compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, and ultimately result in denuclearization,” said Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman, in an e-mailed statement.

North Korea’s relations with the outside world haven’t improved under Kim Jong Un, who succeeded his father in 2011. A rocket launch last year broke a food-aid deal agreed to with the U.S. in February 2012.

Kim’s regime scrapped a planned meeting last week with South Korea, which would have been the first such inter-Korean dialogue in six years, after a dispute over who would lead each delegation. Both sides had agreed to discuss reopening Gaeseong, closed since the North withdrew its workers in April.

Proposing talks with the U.S. may be North Korea’s tactic to pressure the South, Yang Moo Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said by telephone yesterday.

Six-Party Talks

“Strategically, North Korea is saying it wants to settle the issues raised by the U.S., including denuclearization and peace talks, with the U.S.” and not with South Korea, he said.

The Obama administration and the South Korean government have emphasized the importance of the six-party process members in sending a unified message to the North. The U.S. insists the regime live up to past commitments to denuclearize before six-party talks, suspended since 2008, can resume.

If agreed, North Korea’s talks with the U.S. would include a formal peace treaty to replace the the 1950-1953 Korean War armistice that has technically left the peninsula in a state of war.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.