North Korea offers way out of nuclear standoff Pyongyang says wants long awaited peace treaty, but at a cost likely too high for the United States and South Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with his military chiefs

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with his military chiefs

SEOUL (AA) – North Korea said Saturday it was willing to end its widely condemned nuclear test program — if the United States and South Korea put a stop to their joint military exercises.

Pyongyang made the offer via a foreign ministry spokesperson, as the region’s main players have been discussing tougher sanctions in response to the North’s fourth ever nuclear test earlier this month.

The U.S. and South Korea fought on the same side during the 1950-53 Korean War — nearly 30,000 American military personnel are stationed in the southern portion of the peninsula as a legacy of the uneasy truce that brought the conflict to a close.

In addition to renewing a familiar demand for the allies to halt their regular exercises, Pyongyang’s ministry spokesperson also put forward the possibility of a peace treaty in the statement carried by North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency.

But the U.S. and South Korea were still very much moving in the direction of punishing the North for what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb test on Jan. 6.

Following Saturday talks between visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken and his South Korean counterpart Lim Sung-nam, Seoul’s foreign ministry made clear that they agreed on the need for “strong and comprehensive sanctions against North Korea.”

The allies have in the past repeatedly urged Pyongyang to focus on its own behavior rather than make their military exercises a condition for denuclearization.

North Korea is in theory barred from developing nuclear weapons under a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

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