After months of an extended tantrum in which they have repeatedly threatened — oh, I don’t know — nuclear war, the North Korean regime demanded on Tuesday that they be Taken Seriously and get a spot at the big kids’ table as a nuclear-weapons state before they agree to a sit-down dialogue with South Korea and the United States. I’m not sure exactly what is is they’re looking for (an engraved trophy, perhaps, or some monogrammed bath towels?), but the United States’ was decidedly not impressed in their reply: Uhm… how ’bout, no. Via Reuters:

The North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper rejected as unacceptable the U.S. and South Korean condition that it agree to dismantle its nuclear weapons and suspend missile launches before talks can begin.

“If the DPRK sits at a table with the U.S., it has to be a dialogue between nuclear weapons states, not one side forcing the other to dismantle nuclear weapons,” the newspaper said, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The United States swiftly rejected Pyongyang’s claim of nuclear status, while NATO foreign ministers condemned its pursuit of ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs and called for “credible” talks to be held on denuclearization.

“North Korea’s demand to be recognized as a nuclear weapons state is neither realistic nor acceptable,” Thomas Countryman, U.S. Assistant Secretary for International Security and Non-Proliferation, told Reuters in Geneva. …

A White House spokesman said this month North Korea would need to show it was serious about abandoning its nuclear ambitions for talks to be meaningful.

North Korea. What are you doing. Look at your life; look at your choices.

But it isn’t just the United States, South Korea, et al. trying to get the NorKs to understand that it’s in their own best interest to lay off the saber-rattling; even China —  North Korea’s main financial and diplomatic backer — has been getting pretty perturbed about the whole situation, and is reportedly “working on” persuading them:

The top U.S. military officer said on Wednesday Chinese leaders had assured him that they were working on persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

… It has always been reluctant to apply pressure on the North, fearing a flood of refugees into China if North Korea were to collapse.

But in recent months, China has begun to express impatience with North Korea and its threats of nuclear war, and with its 30-year-old leader, Kim Jong-un, grandson of state founder Kim Il-Sung.

“I will leave here with the belief that the Chinese leadership is as concerned as we are with North Korea’s march toward nuclearization and ballistic missile technology, and they have given us an assurance that they are working on it, as we are,” U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey told reporters on the last day of a trip to China.

With any luck, they’ll start to heed the warnings coming in from all sides and quite making outrageously silly demands, but in the meantime, here’s a rumored example of the horrible, squalid living conditions North Korean leaders are simultaneously orchestrating alongside their imagined quest for nuclear greatness. Awful.

“I heard that people sold and ate human flesh,” says Chanyang Joo. “I heard they were killing other family’s babies and selling the flesh after burying the head and fingers.”

Ms Joo says she ignored the rumours until the parents-in-law of a man she knew were publicly executed. They were butchers and the crime, people said, was selling human meat.

Rumours like this have surfaced in the testimony of several defectors coming from North Korea. Whether they are true or not – and we may never know – the fact that they circulate and are believed illustrates the level of hunger, deprivation and fear in parts of the country that marked the Great Famine.