SEOUL • North Korea has called for the conclusion of a peace treaty with the US and a halt to US military exercises with South Korea in return for an end to its nuclear tests.
The isolated state has long sought a peace treaty with the US, as well as an end to the exercises by South Korea and the US, which has about 28,500 troops based in the South.
"Still valid are all proposals for preserving peace and stability on the peninsula and in North-east Asia including the ones for ceasing our nuclear test and the conclusion of a peace treaty in return for US halt to joint military exercises," the North's official KCNA news agency cited a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying early yesterday.
Asked if the United States would consider a halt to joint exercises, State Department spokesman John Kirby said: "We are going to continue to make sure the alliance is ready in all respects to act in defence of the South Korean people and the security of the peninsula."
Asked earlier last week about North Korea's call for a peace treaty, the State Department reiterated its position that it remained open to dialogue, but said "the onus is on North Korea to take meaningful actions towards denuclearisation".
The two Koreas remain technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce and not a peace treaty. On Jan 6, North Korea said it had tested a hydrogen bomb, sparking condemnation from its neighbours and the US, even as experts expressed doubt that the test was of a hydrogen bomb.
Meanwhile, Japan, South Korea and the US yesterday ratcheted up pressure on China to support the "strongest possible" punishment against the North over the nuclear test. Pyongyang is under United Natons sanctions for its nuclear and missile programmes.