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North Korea: End U.N. Sanctions, And Talks Can Resume

North Korea on Thursday says it is ready to resume talks with the U.S. and South Korea if they end joint military exercises and the United Nations drops sanctions.

The official KCNA news agency carried the statement from North Korea's National Defense Commission calling for a resumption of dialogue.

"The first step will be withdrawing the U.N. Security Council resolutions cooked up on ridiculous grounds," the statement said.

"Second, you need to tell the whole world that you will not get involved in any rehearsal for a nuclear war that threatens our nation. Dialogues and war games can never go together," it added.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry dismissed the demands as "absurd," the BBC reports.

"We strongly urge the North to stop making such incomprehensible demands and to make the wise choice we have repeatedly urged," Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said.

UPDATE at 2:30 p.m. ET:

The New York Times reports that the slight ratcheting down of North's rhetoric is a sign that Pyongyang wants to ease tensions:

"That assessment, gaining credence among policymakers in recent days, does not mean that North Korea will soon agree to talks or that the long-term threat posed by its weapons program has been reduced. But officials say they are encouraged by a shift over the past week in Pyongyang's rhetoric, which, though still venomous, now includes hints about reconciliation.

'The tensions should gradually decrease from here, but we cannot lose ourselves' to complacency, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to convey government thinking. 'We do still have to be prepared for any provocations.'"

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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