In comments on Saturday, President Trump reported that North Korea had directly contacted him a couple of days prior with an offer of direct diplomacy. If confirmed, this marks the first such offer directly made by the North Koreans to the administration.
“They, by the way, called up a couple of days ago, they said ‘we would like to talk,'” Trump said of recent discussions. “And I said, so would we, but you have to denuke.” This reiterates the administration’s long-standing rejection of talks without preconditions.
In recent months, North Korea has been quoted by myriad sources, including Russia and South Korea, as being in favor of talks with the US, but saying those talks must happen without preconditions. Since the denuclearization is the main thing the US would want in such negotiations, North Korea is certainly not going to give that up beforehand, as it gives them little to nothing else to offer in the talks themselves.
US officials have tried to present North Korea’s interest in talks previously as insincere, though North Korea directly approaching the US about the possibility is a major step forward and virtually obliges the US to make a more substantial response than President Trump’s usual reiteration of demands and dismissive declaration that “we’ll see what happens.”
That’s because even if the administration chooses to try to spin this offer as a product of months of US threats, as opposed to South Korea’s intense diplomatic efforts, the narrative was always supposed to end with the US settling the matter diplomatically, and obviously cannot do so if they keep rejecting talks.