North Korea demands peace treaty for stopping nuke tests

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea says it could stop its nuclear tests in exchange for signing a peace treaty with the U.S. and a stop to annual military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.

The North’s statement, which aired on state media Friday, is a repeat of past offers that have been rejected by the U.S., which wants Pyongyang to commit to a complete abandonment of nuclear weapons.

The state media late Friday carried the statement by an unnamed spokesman of the North’s Foreign Ministry, who called the purported hydrogen bomb test on Jan. 6 a justifiable move to ensure its survival against external threats.

“In response to the U.S. continuously invading our sovereignty and making threatening provocations, we will acquire ourselves with all possible nuclear attack and nuclear retaliation abilities, but will not thoughtlessly use our nuclear weapons ,” the official Korean Central News Agency quoted the spokesman as saying.

The spokesman also called the South’s decision to restart anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts along their tense border an “odd” provocation.

The North is extremely sensitive to outside criticism of the authoritarian leadership of Kim Jong Un and has been retaliating to Seoul’s loudspeaker campaigns by flying thousands of propaganda leaflets across the border. Earlier in the week, South Korean troops fired 20 machine gun warning shots after a North Korean drone briefly crossed the border.

The North’s H-bomb claims have been met with condemnation and suspicion, but also questions on how to stop the country’s growing nuclear threat.

The Korean Peninsula remains technically at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice.

Pyongyang has called the annual U.S.-South Korean military drills a rehearsal for an invasion, though the allies have repeatedly said that the war games are defensive in nature.