North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches a ground test of a high-thrust engine for his country's missile program. Photo: KCNA via Reuters

The Western media misinterpreted and ignored key parts of a recent North Korean statement on negotiating with the US about its nuclear program, says a commentary on Johns Hopkins University 38 North website.

The August 9 editor’s column on the respected site dedicated to analysis on North Korea says that Pyongyang hasn’t changed its previous position on nukes. It hasn’t ruled out negotiating. It will still come to the table if the US removes its “hostile policy and nuclear threat” against the DPRK. If true, the latest hullabaloo about imminent war with North Korea may be a wash.

The error, according to 38 North, lies in an inept English translation of a statement made by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho at the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting on July 26.

The English translation was: “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, unless the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the US against the DPRK are fundamentally eliminated.”

38 North says the splitting of the sentences raises several questions as to what was covered under the qualifier of “unless” the hostile policy is removed. But 38 North says the answer can be found in the Korean-language version in which the formula was presented as one sentence, not two.

The Korean version reads: “Unless the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the US against the DPRK are fundamentally eliminated, we, under no circumstances, will put the nukes and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table and will not flinch even an inch away from our path of strengthening of nuclear forces, which is chosen by ourselves.”

This statement in Korean is said to merely repeat an earlier statement by Kim Jong-un on July 4 and one by the North Korean government on August 7 which says the only way Pyongyang will put its WMD programs on the table is if the US threat to their country ends.

38 North says this is a very different position than the one described in Western media reports.

“The media cherry-picked a part of what the North Koreans were saying in order to write a sensational story,” the 38 North column said. It said such misreporting is especially dangerous given the escalating crisis between Washington and Pyongyang.

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