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U.S. Faces Possibility of Denuclearization Talks With North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reportedly opened up to the possibility of denuclearization and peace talks with the United States, according to South Korean diplomats that met with him in Pyongyang.

 North Korean Central News Agency, via European Pressphoto Agency, via New York Times

North Korean Central News Agency, via European Pressphoto Agency, via New York Times

The diplomats released a statement on Tuesday saying that “The North Korean side clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize,” the New York Times reported. “It made it clear that it would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated and its security guaranteed.”

Though it seems to be a promising step after a tumultuous year of threats exchanged between Washington and Pyongyang, it isn’t the first time that North Korea has promised to try to reach an agreement. The Times reported that a 1994 deal made during Bill Clinton’s presidency, in which North Korea agreed to halt its plutonium program in exchange for humanitarian aid, disintegrated under George W. Bush because of North Korea’s formation of a “uranium enrichment program.”

President Trump responded to the news on Twitter, writing: “Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”

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The South Korean statement expressed that North Korea would halt nuclear and ballistic missile tests while talks with the United States are ongoing, reported the Times. South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong stated that the North appears willing to denuclearize if “the military threat to North Korea is resolved,” an apparent reference to the U.S. military presence in South Korea, reported CNN.

A senior U.S. administration official told CNN that North Korea must make legitimate strides toward denuclearization before the U.S. will agree to a dialogue.

Still, the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang seem to have contributed to relieving some of the tension between North and South Korea that has been harbored since the Korean War from 1950-1953, which never formally ended with a peace treaty. South Korean and U.S. joint military exercises were postponed during the Games, and are expected to resume next month, according to CNBC.

North and South Korea also have agreed to host a summit meeting in April between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in, reported the Times, and a hotline will be installed so that the two can communicate directly by phone.

“The statements coming out of South Korea and North Korea have been very positive,” said Trump in an Oval Office meeting, as reported by the Times. “That would be a great thing for the world.”