18 January, 2015
This week, North Korea offered direct talks with the United States. The North Korean offer came days after the U.S. government rejected an earlier offer by the Asian nation. North Korea said it would suspend nuclear testing if the U.S. suspends joint military exercises with South Korea.
North Korea's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, An Myong Hun, says the joint military exercises are the cause of rising tensions. He added that many things would have been possible had the offer been accepted.
Last Saturday, the United States called the earlier North Korean offer an ‘implicit threat.' It said the North's nuclear tests violate many U.N. Security Council resolutions. An American official said the U.S. government remains open to discussions. But she said such talks must deal with the Korean peninsula's denuclearization.
Tensions have risen after U.S. officials accused North Korea of launching a cyber-attack against Sony Pictures in November. The cyber-attack led to the release of sensitive documents. It is believed to have cost the film company millions of dollars. North Korea has denied involvement in the attack.
In early January, the Obama Administration announced new measures against North Korean individuals and organizations.
Daniel Glaser is a Treasury Department official. He says the new sanctions will enable the U.S. to financially pressure agencies and officials involved in cyber-terrorism. He says sanctions have even had an effect on the Chinese financial system.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Sung Kim says the U.S. is working more closely with China, North Korea's main ally in Asia. He said there is growing concern about the North's continued work on nuclear weapons and its human rights record.
"I think what we have seen in our cooperation with China is that China is working with us more effectively and trying to stifle North Korea's dangerous activities."
South Korea has offered to meet with North Korean officials without any pre-conditions. However, the United States continues to demand that North Korea limit its nuclear activities and honor earlier agreements before opening new negotiations.
The U.S. and South Korea often hold joint military exercises. The Korean War ended with a ceasefire in 1953. No treaty officially ending the war was ever signed.
I'm Mario Ritter.
This story was based on reports from VOA's Victor Beattie and Brian Padden. Mario Ritter wrote the story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
implicit - adj., not clearly stated, though understood
peninsula - n., a piece of land almost completely surrounded by the sea
sensitive - adj., needing careful handling, or protection
sanctions - n., actions taken or an order given to make a country obey international law
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