North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump leave after signing documents that acknowledge the progress of the talks and pledge to keep momentum going, after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12 2018. Picture: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump leave after signing documents that acknowledge the progress of the talks and pledge to keep momentum going, after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12 2018. Picture: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST

North Korea has ruled out dismantling its nuclear arsenal in exchange for the US declaring an end to the Korean War, saying a peace treaty should "never be a bargaining chip".

For decades the North has demanded that the US formally declare the end of the 1950-1953 conflict that was halted only with an armistice, saying an official end to the war would ease tension on the flashpoint peninsula.

At a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in September, the North's leader, Kim Jong-un offered to shut down its main Yongbyon nuclear complex if Washington takes "corresponding measures".

Kim did not elaborate on what those measures might be, but state news agency KCNA said in a commentary that some US experts have suggested trading the end of the war for denuclearisation.

It flatly described that as only the "most basic ... process" to restore ties, not a point for negotiation.

"The end of war ... is not just a gift from a man to another at all. Furthermore, it can never be a bargaining chip for getting the DPRK denuclearised," it said.

KCNA said that Pyongyang was willing to take "such ... steps as eternal dismantlement" of its nuclear complex "if the US takes a corresponding measure", but again did not elaborate.

Cho Sung-ryul, analyst at the Institute of National Security Strategy, said the commentary may be aimed at limiting Washington's room for manoeuvre.

"The North is trying to reduce the negotiating value of Washington's potential offer of a peace treaty, by suggesting that 'it's not good enough to make us denuclearise'," he told South Korea's news agency Yonhap.

A landmark summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in June led to a warming of ties, but there has been little concrete progress toward denuclearisation.

The North's foreign minister Ri Yong Ho also told the UN last month that there was "no way" his country would disarm first as long as the US pushes for tough enforcement of sanctions against Pyongyang.

Trump, however, lauded Kim, saying last week the pair had fallen "in love" — their bromance fuelled by "beautiful letters" he recently received from the leader.

The ceasefire that halted the bloody conflict that sealed the division of the Korean peninsula was signed by the North, its military ally China and the US — which fought on the side of the South.

The South did not take part as its leader refused to end the war unless the whole peninsula were unified.

AFP