North Korea reportedly rejected the idea of resuming talks to abandon its nuclear program on Saturday, but said it would welcome negotiations for a peace treaty with Washington.
North Korea’s foreign ministry made the statement one day after President Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye said they were ready to open talks with Pyongyang on sanctions if they were serious about dissolving its nuclear program, according to Reuters.
“If the United States insists on taking a different path, the Korean peninsula will only see our unlimited nuclear deterrent being strengthened further,” the North said in a statement.
North and South Korea are still technically at war after signing a truce in 1953 to temporarily end their conflict. The U.S. also signed the deal after backing the South.
Obama, while meeting with Park on Friday, said Iran had been prepared to have a “serious conversation” about the possibility of giving up the pursuit of nuclear weapons. He said there’s no indication of that in North Korea’s case.
"At the point where Pyongyang says, `We're interested in seeing relief from sanctions and improved relations, and we are prepared to have a serious conversation about denuclearization,' it's fair to say we'll be right there at the table," Obama told a joint news conference.
In a joint statement after Friday’s meeting, the U.S. and South Korea said that if North Korea decides to launch another rocket into space or test a nuclear explosion, “it will face consequences, including seeking further significant measures by the U.N. Security Council.” The statement also said they would never accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state.
North Korea had walked away from talks involving the U.S. and four other countries in 2008 and continued to conduct nuclear tests. It claims the only way to end conflict with Washington is to sign a peace treaty.
Park’s visit Friday further strengthened South Korea’s ties with the U.S.
U.S. retains 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, and nearly 50,000 troops in Japan. Obama called the U.S.-South Korean alliance "unbreakable." Park called it a "lynchpin" of regional security.
In August, the two Koreas threatened each other with war after two South Korean soldiers were wounded by land mines Seoul says were planted by the North. The tensions have since eased, and the two sides have agreed to resume next week reunions of Korean families divided by the Korean War.
The Obama administration has faced criticism from hawks and doves alike for a lack of high-level attention on North Korea, which estimated to have enough fissile material for between 10 and 16 nuclear weapons.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.