North Korea offers to suspend nuclear tests if U.S. suspends military drills

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North Korea offers to suspend nuclear tests if U.S. suspends military drills
PAJU, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 10: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout provided by the Jang Seong-Yoon-Donga Daily, North Korean defectors, now living in South Korea, prepare to release balloons carrying propaganda leaflets denouncing North Korea's nuclear test, near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on October 10, 2014 in Paju, South Korea. Seoul's military said they exchanged machine gun fire with North Korea on Friday, after the North opened fire toward balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets floated across the border. (Photo by Jang Seong-Yoon-Donga Daily via Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - 2013/09/19: Pyongyang's newly built luxury housing for those citizens who are more fortunate in North Korea. 60 years after the Korean War, it is clear that not much has changed in North Korea. The country still remains under heavy censorship, with only a small portion of the population living the life of what we call 'middle class'. The people of North Korea are forced into believing that working for the greater good of the state is the formal way of presenting their national determination. The city of Pyongyang is outdated, with only a handful of cars driven by those who are a bit more fortunate. Propaganda rates are high, with many billboards displaying missiles and world domination regimes. North Korea remains a strictly isolated country where people do not have the privileges that we take for granted. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Fireworks explode above the Pyongyaang skyline during a display to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean war armistice agreement, in Pyongyang on July 27, 2013. North Korea mounted its largest ever military parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War, displaying its long-range missiles at a ceremony presided over by leader Kim Jong-Un. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
The Yanggakdo Football Stadium stands before the Pyongyang city skyline on April 13, 2012. North Korea launched a long-range rocket, South Korea's defence ministry and US officials said, with Japan saying that the launch had appeared to have failed. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - 1994/04/01: The construction skeleton of what would be the world tallest hotel. Unfortunately, the 105 story Ryuyong Hotel and its five rotating restaurants will likely never open. When personel from Hyatt hotels inspected the site they discovered that the elevator shaft wasn't even straight. (Photo by Gerhard Joren/LightRocket via Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - 1994/02/01: A hotel on the river in Pyongyang. (Photo by Gerhard Joren/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A smartly dressed business woman walks under North Korean flags and the imposing Juche Tower.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea, Pyongyang, Moranbong Theatre, venue of National Symphony Orchestra - Fountain statues detail;
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 16, 2014: Figure 1-A. DigitalGlobe imagery of the bypass road constructed at the West Portal of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site. Date: September 16, 2014 -- published on 38 North. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - JUNE 22, 2014: This is Figure 3-2 -- DigitalGlobe imagery of an after photo of the dam failure at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center showing sand being excavated for the new dam. Image taken on June 22, 2014 -- published on 38 North (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
This video grab taken from North Korean TV on March 20, 2013 shows a Self-Propelled Suface to Air Missile during North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's overseeing of a live fire military drill using drones and cruise missile interceptors. Kim Jong-Un oversaw a live fire military drill using drones and cruise missile interceptors, state media said, amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula. ----EDITORS NOTE --- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT ' AFP PHOTO / NORTH KOREAN TV' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - AFP PHOTO/HO/NORTH KOREAN TV (Photo credit should read NORTH KOREAN TV/AFP/Getty Images)
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(Reuters) - North Korea said on Saturday it was willing to suspend nuclear tests if the United States agreed to call off annual military drills held jointly with South Korea, but Washington rejected the proposal as a veiled threat.

The offer, which the North's official KCNA news agency said was conveyed to Washington on Friday through "a relevant channel", follows an often repeated demand by Pyongyang for an end to the large-scale defensive drills by the allies.

"The message proposed (that) the U.S. contribute to easing tension on the Korean peninsula by temporarily suspending joint military exercises in South Korea and its vicinity this year," KCNA said in a report.

"(The message) said that in this case the DPRK is ready to take such a responsive step as temporarily suspending the nuclear test over which the U.S. is concerned," KCNA said, using the short form for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

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North Korea offers to suspend nuclear tests if U.S. suspends military drills
Kim Jong Un flashes his computer skills for gathered North Korean officials. (KCNA/Reuters/Corbis)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - DECEMBER 17: South Korean conservative protesters burn an effigy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un during an anti-North Korea protest marking the second anniversary of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's death on December 17, 2013 in Seoul, South Korea. The tension is heightened in South Korea since the report that North Korea has executed Jang Song-Thaek, Kim Jong Un's uncle on December 13, 2013. On December 17, 2013 North Korea also commemorates two years since the death of former leader Kim Jong-il. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - DECEMBER 17: South Korean conservative protesters shout slogans during an anti-North Korea protest marking the second anniversary of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's death on December 17, 2013 in Seoul, South Korea. The tension is heightened in South Korea since the report that North Korea has executed Jang Song-Thaek, Kim Jong Un's uncle on December 13, 2013. On December 17, 2013 North Korea also commemorates two years since the death of former leader Kim Jong-il. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
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State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the nuclear tests and military exercises were separate issues.

"The DPRK statement that inappropriately links routine US-ROK exercises to the possibility of a nuclear test by North Korea is an implicit threat," Psaki told reporters traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry in Europe.

The United States and South Korea have carried out the joint military exercises for roughly 40 years, she added.

Psaki said the United States remained open to dialogue with North Korea and urged Pyongyang to "immediately cease all threats, reduce tensions, and take the necessary steps toward denuclearization needed to resume credible negotiations."

North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, the last in February 2013, and is under U.N. sanctions for defying international warnings not to set off atomic devices in pursuit of a nuclear arsenal, which Pyongyang calls its "sacred sword".

It often promises to call off nuclear and missile tests in return for comparable steps by Washington to ease tensions. It reached such a deal in February 2012 with the United States for an arms tests moratorium only to scrap it two months later.

North Korea Offers Nuclear Tests Deal

The United States and South Korea have stressed that the annual drills, which in some years involved U.S. aircraft carriers, are purely defensive in nature, aimed at testing the allies' readiness to confront any North Korean aggression.

Tension peaked on the Korean peninsula in March 2013 when the North ratcheted up rhetoric during the annual drills, with Pyongyang threatening war and putting its forces in a state of combat readiness.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Munich; Editing byDoina Chiacu and Dominic Evans)

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