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North Korea hints at nuclear test moratorium

North Korea hints at nuclear test moratorium
North Korea has told the United States that it’s willing to impose a temporary moratorium on nuclear tests if Washington scraps planned military drills with South Korea this year, the North’s official news agency said Saturday.

The reported proposal comes at a time of tensions between North Korea and the US over a Sony movie depicting an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The US blames the North for crippling hacking attacks on Sony Entertainment and subsequently imposed new sanctions on the country, inviting an angry response from Pyongyang, which has denied responsibility for the cyberattacks.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said the government proposed to the US what it calls a “crucial step” to ease animosities and remove the danger of war, prompted by desires to pave the way for a reunification with South Korea this year, which marks the 70th anniversary of the rivals’ division.

The message “proposed the US to contribute to easing tension on the Korean Peninsula by temporarily suspending joint military exercises in South Korea and its vicinity this year, and said that in this case (North Korea) is ready to take such responsive step as temporarily suspending the nuclear test over which the US is concerned,” KCNA’s report said. “Now is the time for the US to make a bold decision for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia.”

It said the message was conveyed to the US on Friday through an unspecified relevant channel.

Pyongyang has called the annual US-South Korean military drills a rehearsal for an invasion, though the allies have repeatedly said they have no intentions of attacking the North.

North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013. A fourth test would mark another defiant response to US-led international pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program.

Western experts believe North Korea has a handful of rudimentary bombs, though it is not believed to be capable yet of producing warheads small enough to mount on a long-range missile that could threaten the US Another nuclear test could put the North a step closer to that goal.

The Korean Peninsula remains divided along the world’s most heavily armed border because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 American troops are deployed in South Korea as a buttress against potential North Korean aggression.
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