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North Korea Offered Peace Talks, Then Backed Out: White House

WASHINGTON — North Korea sought to discuss a peace treaty but pulled away after the U.S. insisted denuclearization be part of the negotiations, the White House said Monday.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. considered a proposal from the North Korea, which has long sought a peace treaty with Washington. The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, and the U.S. retains 28,500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent against the North.

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The diplomatic discussions took place prior to North Korea's recent nuclear test and rocket launch that have further strained relations. Congress has since passed and President Barack Obama has signed additional sanctions on North Korea. The U.S., China and others are also considering U.N. sanctions.

"There was interest expressed by the North Koreans in discussing a peace treaty," Earnest told a news conference. "We considered their proposal, but also made clear that denuclearization had to be part of any discussions. The truth is that the North Koreans rejected that response."

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"Those discussions were entirely consistent with the longstanding policy that the Obama administration has put forward," Earnest said.

The U.S. previously has expressed openness to peace talks but said that Pyongyang would first have to abandon its nuclear program. Talks on the nuclear issue haven't gotten anywhere for years. International aid-for-disarmament negotiations that were hosted by China have been stalled since 2008.

Image: Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guides military drills in an undated photo released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency on February 21, 2016. KCNA / Reuters

The international response to North Korea's Jan. 6 nuclear test and Feb. 7 rocket launch will be discussed when Secretary of State John Kerry meets Tuesday with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying repeated China's opposition to the possible U.S. deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system following the rocket launch.

Wang is scheduled to be in the United States until Thursday.