The renegade Nouth Korea, in apparent appeasement of its only big supporter China, today offered to begin talks with its 'No 1 enemy' the USA to defuse tensions – but under stringent conditions that are unlikely to be met in a hurry.
In its list of conditions before talks can begin, North Korea, which makes no secret of its nuclear weapons ambitions, has demanded the lifting of United Nations sanctions against it and a permanent end to joint US-South Korean military exercises.
The United States and South Korea "should immediately stop all their provocative acts against the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and apologize for all of them," the country's National Defence Commission said in a statement carried by state-run media.
The commission listed a number of "practical measures" the United States and South Korea should take if they want to avoid "sledge-hammer retaliatory blows of the army and people" of North Korea and if "they truly stand for dialogue and negotiations".
But the nature of the demands, such as the lifting of sanctions imposed after the DPRK's latest nuclear test, appeared to offer almost no chance of negotiations, particularly amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Japan last week went into an unusual 'Patriot' interceptor missile deployment to guard against North Korea's unbridled missile tests.
"It is hard to understand North Korea's claims," Cho Tai-young, a spokesman for the South Korean foreign ministry, said at a news briefing. "They are preposterous."
A torrent of unnerving threats from Pyongyang in recent weeks has strained already fragile relations in the region. The North's rhetoric intensified when the UN Security Council voted last month to slap tougher sanctions on the regime and amid US-South Korean military drills currently under way in South Korea.
The United States said this month that for it to enter talks, North Korea would have to show a serious commitment to moving away from its nuclear programme, which the regime of Kim Jong Un insists it won't do.
In its preconditions for talks issued today, North Korea suggested that the United States would have to make the first move on the nuclear issue.
"They should bear in mind that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can begin with the pull-out of the nuclear war means introduced by the US and this may lead to the global denuclearization," the defence commission said.
North Korea has repeatedly described the annual military exercises taking place in South Korea as threats of nuclear war, singling out aspects of the drills like the practice mission flown by US stealth bombers as evidence. The stealth bombers can carry conventional or nuclear weapons.
Despite all this, US Secretary of State John Kerry, who ended a trip to the region early this week that was dominated by concern about North Korea, stressed his interest in a diplomatic solution.