North Korea ratch­et­ing up nu­clear ten­sion

Py­ongyang de­mands that Amer­ica lift its eco­nomic sanc­tions

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - From The Cover - By Si­mon Denyer WASH­ING­TON P O ST

TOKYO — North Korea has threat­ened to restart the de­vel­op­ment of its nu­clear weapons pro­gram un­less the United States lifts sanc­tions, un­der­scor­ing one of the ma­jor po­ten­tial stum­bling blocks in Wash­ing­ton’s diplo­matic out­reach with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has in­sisted sanc­tions and other pres­sures re­main on North Korea un­til it dis­man­tles its nu­clear pro­gram.

Kim’s regime, how­ever, al­ways has de­manded a step-by-step process of de­nu­cle­ariza­tion that would in­clude lift­ing U.S. sanc­tions along the way.

In the past month, Py­ongyang has stepped up its calls for sanc­tions re­lief.

The state­ment re­leased late Fri­day by North Korea’s For­eign Min­istry is the lat­est in­di­ca­tion that ne­go­ti­a­tions over its nu­clear pro­gram have hit an im­passe.

The is­sue of sanc­tions also has cre­ated a rift be­tween Seoul and Wash­ing­ton.

South Korea has backed the North’s call for sanc­tions re­lief and is keen to get mov­ing on an am­bi­tious pro­gram of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and co­op­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing build­ing road and rail links across their heav­ily mil­i­ta­rized fron­tier.

The North Korean For­eign Min­istry warned that un­less sanc­tions were lifted and Wash­ing­ton stopped be­hav­ing “ar­ro­gantly,” North Korea could re­in­state “py­ongjin” — its pol­icy of si­mul­ta­ne­ously de­vel­op­ing its nu­clear weapons pro­gram along­side seek­ing eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

In April, Kim de­clared that the coun­try’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram was suf­fi­ciently ad­vanced and that the pol­icy of “py­ongjin” would be re­placed by a sin­gle fo­cus on im­prov­ing the econ­omy.

Back­track­ing could reignite ten­sions with the United States. Still, nei­ther side has turned its back on ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo told jour­nal­ists he will meet his North Korean “coun­ter­part” for fur­ther talks soon, al­though he didn’t spec­ify ex­actly when, where or with whom those talks would take place.

Pom­peo met Kim in Py­ongyang last month and says he se­cured a prom­ise to al­low Amer­i­can in­spec­tors into two nu­clear and mis­sile test­ing sites to check on their dis­man­tle­ment.

Speak­ing on “The Laura In­gra­ham Show” last week, Pom­peo said a sum­mit be­tween Kim and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump could hap­pen early next year and en­able “a sub­stan­tial break­through in tak­ing down the nu­clear threat from North Korea.”

In an in­ter­view Fri­day with Sean Han­nity on Fox News, Pom­peo said that “a lot of work” re­mains to be done, but added: “I’m con­fi­dent that we will keep the eco­nomic pres­sure in place un­til such time as Chair­man Kim ful­fills the com­mit­ment he made to Pres­i­dent Trump back in June in Sin­ga­pore.”

That oft-re­peated re­frain about pres­sure is the prob­lem in Py­ongyang’s eyes. North Korea ar­gues that Trump promised Kim in June that a new era in re­la­tions was be­gin­ning.

“The im­prove­ment of re­la­tions and sanc­tions are in­com­pat­i­ble,” the For­eign Min­istry com­men­tary said. “‘Friend­ship’ is in­com­pat­i­ble with ‘pres­sure.’”

The For­eign Min­istry asked Wash­ing­ton to aban­don its “fool­ish day­dream” that sanc­tions and pres­sure will lead to de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.

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