The proposal on Sunday came not from the Foreign Ministry, which is the usual conduit of talks with Washington, but from the National Defense Commission, which came to excessive influence under former leader Kim Jong-il's "military first" doctrine. It also seemed to be fishing for mutual disarmament talks instead of discussion about ways to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, which North Korea knows the U.S. will not accept.
Some pundits say the recent offers of talks with first South Korea and then the U.S. were never meant to be accepted but merely aimed to mollify China, which is growing tired of the North's histrionics.
◆ Blowing Hot and Cold
North Korea had been ratcheting up tensions since early March, announcing it was scrapping the armistice that halted the 1950-53 Korean War, issuing threats of a nuclear attack against the South and the U.S. and shutting down the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex.
Then in mid-May it was all suddenly over. Pyongyang welcomed Japanese cabinet advisor Isao Iijima, a key aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on May 14. Eight days later Kim dispatched senior military figure Choe Ryong-hae as a special envoy to China, where he was given a frosty reception.
On June 6, North Korea proposed high-level government talks with South Korea, only to scrap them in a huff a few days later, and then on Sunday talks with senior U.S. officials.
Some pundits believe this is all carefully thought out and designed to drive a wedge between South Korea, the U.S. and China, which have grown closer in condemning the North's belligerent antics and calling for it to abandon its nuclear weapons. But most agree that these tactics have been a resounding flop.