N. Korea proposes unconditional, high-level talks with U.S.

North Korea's National Defense Commission on Sunday called for unconditional high-level dialogue with the United States to relax tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the Korean Central News Agency reported.

"We propose senior-level talks between the authorities of the DPRK and the U.S. to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security in the region," according to a "crucial statement" issued by the spokesman for the commission.

The DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The statement was issued prior to the 60th anniversary of the Korean War cease-fire on July 27.

The talks can focus on replacing the armistice system with a "peace mechanism" and on other issues "of mutual concern including the building of a 'world without nuclear weapons' proposed by the U.S.," the statement noted. "The U.S. can set the venue and date of the talks to its convenience."

The United States "should positively respond to the DPRK's bold decision and good intention, not missing the opportunity" if it hopes to achieve a world without nuclear arms and bring about detente, it added.

The spokesman also said Pyongyang will remain a nuclear power "until the whole Korean Peninsula is denuclearized and the nuclear threats from outside are put to a final end," urging Washington to "stop nuclear threats and blackmail and all forms of provocations including 'sanctions' against the DPRK."

North Korea conducted a de-facto long-range missile test in December and its third nuclear test in February, but it now apparently aims to improve its ties with the United States through direct talks and to stabilize the regime under its leader Kim Jong Un.