- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2018

The White House responded cautiously to North Korea’s expression of interest in diplomatic talks with the U.S. Sunday, suggesting the Trump administration may be interested, but remains committed to “achieving the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

The administration, which has announced fresh economic sanctions against Pyongyang in recent days, also vowed in a statement Sunday to keep up its “maximum pressure campaign” against North Korea until it denuclearizes.

The statement came hours after South Korea’s government said senior officials from North who were visiting South Korea for the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics had indicated an openness to talks with the United States.

While Pyongyang was also sharply critical Sunday of the Trump administration’s new sanctions, the expression of openness on talks could represent a major new development in the ongoing crisis surrounding North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons provocations.

Within hours, the White House responded with a statement saying the “United States, our Olympic Host the Republic of Korea, and the international community broadly agree that denuclearization must be the result of any dialogue with North Korea.”

“As President Trump has said, there is a brighter path available for North Korea if it chooses denuclearization,” the statement said. “We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization.”

“In the meantime,” the statement added, “the United States and the world must continue to make clear that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are a dead end.”

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