Hurdles to talks high after North Korea threats

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PYONGYANG, North Korea — After weeks of fiery rhetoric, military posturing and threats that it’s willing to strike back hard if provoked, North Korea appears to be taking a bit of a breather. The U.S.-South Korea war games it despises are winding down, and feelers are out in diplomatic circles that it might be best to open up some avenue for dialogue. If that sounds familiar, it should — it’s a pattern that has been repeated for decades.

From back-door channels to multinational conferences, dialogue has repeatedly been tried in a long-running effort to get North Korea to put the brakes on its development of nuclear weapons.

Generally, hopes sputter and fade when North Korea’s talking partners are presented with what they consider impossible demands. North Korea, meanwhile, has moved slowly but surely ahead with its nuclear program.

Amid continued fears it may test-launch a mid-range missile, North Korea two weeks ago opened the door, just a tiny crack, to talks. First it laid out a list of conditions for dialogue. Then it eased up on the near-daily war threats that had characterized its public statements, possibly signaling a willingness to dial the tensions back, particularly after the U.S.-South Korea drills, which were set to end Tuesday.

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