U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday signaled that North Korea must do a lot more than simply call for diplomatic talks if it wants to reengage with the United States, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
After ratcheting up regional tensions to an alarming rate this spring with its repeated threats of nuclear missile strikes on South Korea and the United States, Pyongyang in recent weeks has been asking for bilateral talks with Washington over security issues.
"Now North Korea is calling for dialogue," Biden said in remarks at the Center for American Progress. "As my mother would say, 'I've seen this movie before.'"
The vice president was referring to Pyongyang's well known history of carrying out a series of provocations to elicit the world's attention, then dialing back tensions before a full-scale war erupts and seeking out international negotiations, where it normally demands some type of concessions.
"We've been there before, only to find out once they've gotten the space or the aid they need, they return to the same provocative, dangerous behavior and continue their nuclear march," said the former Delaware senator.
The Obama administration has said it is willing to re-engage only if North Korea first makes concrete demonstrations of its willingness to end its nuclear weapons work. "We are ready [to hold talks], but only, only if North Korea's prepared to engage in genuine negotiations," Biden said.
To underline Washington's readiness to engage with nations that are willing to change their ways, Biden pointed to the example of Myanmar, which after implementing a series of political and economic reforms in recent years saw its international standing ratcheted up significantly and now has full-scale diplomatic relations with the United States.
Washington's top military officer told a Senate hearing on Thursday that there are no indications the North is readying to carry out either a new atomic test or a missile firing, Yonhap separately reported.
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey also acknowledged that there have been "some setbacks" in efforts to prepare longtime ally South Korea to reassume military authority over its own troops during wartime. Nevertheless, Dempsey said he stands by a plan to return wartime command to the South by December 2015. The South Korean Defense Ministry recently asked the U.S. military to consider lengthening that timeline.
"From a military perspective, the timing of the transfer of wartime [operational command] is appropriate," Dempsey wrote in his Senate testimony. He emphasized the transfer would not take place if the South is not confirmed as ready.
High-ranking U.S. and South Korean military officials are slated to convene in Seoul in August for talks on the wartime command transfer, Yonhap reported.