North Korea is playing hardball, but it’s actually willing to talk — and possibly make peace with Trump

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Photo: Ed Jones/ AFP/ Getty Images.

Lost in the media’s frantic coverage about the peaking North Korea crisis, a small, but very important detail escaped much of the US’s notice that could be a window to peace between two feuding nuclear powers.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho stood before the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting and said the following: “We will, under no circumstances, put the nukes and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table. Neither shall we flinch even an inch from the road to bolstering up the nuclear forces chosen by ourselves.”

The Associated Press and Reuters reported on that statement, essentially spreading the news that North Korea will never abandon its belligerent tactics around the world.

But that’s only half the statement, as Robert Carlin, the former chief of the Northeast Asia Division at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, pointed out on 38 North.

Ri’s full statement continues with a caveat, saying that North Korea won’t halt its weapons programs, “unless the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the U.S. against the D.P.R.K. are fundamentally eliminated.”

This clause was completely ignored by the vast majority of US media, yet it offers the only chance for a peaceful solution. Bear in mind that Ri said this before Trump threatened nuclear “fire and fury,” and his characterization of the US’s “hostile policy” is steeped in propaganda.

The US and South Korea have a massive military exercise planned in late August, around when North Korea has threatened to fire missiles at Guam, the US territory in the Pacific with massive US Air Force and Navy bases.

Continuous Bomber Presence guam andersen
A B-52 Stratofortress, B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit fly over Guam after launching from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for an integrated bomber operation Aug.17, 2016. US Air Force photo/Senior Airman Joshua Smoot

North Korea experts and diplomats have previously told Business Insider that Pyongyang may be willing to curb parts of its nuclear program in exchange for limitations on those exercises.

The US routinely rejects these offers, which usually come from China, because the regularly scheduled, decades-old military exercise held by the US and South Korea are totally legal under international law, while North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests are not.

Yun Sun, a senior associate at the Stimson center and an expert on North Korea and China said that the US backing down from legal activities so North Korea would curb its illegal activities would amount to blackmail.

But with the record-high tensions between the US and North Korea, perhaps the subject may be revisited.