Warning issued over U.S. refusal to lift sanctions
SEOUL — North Korea has warned it could revive a state policy aimed at strengthening its nuclear arsenal if the United States does not lift economic sanctions against the country.
The statement released by the Foreign Ministry said North Korea could bring back its policy of simultaneously advancing its nuclear force and economic development if the United States doesn’t change its stance. The North stopped short of threatening to abandon ongoing nuclear negotiations with Washington.
Still, it accused Washington of derailing commitments made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump at their June summit in Singapore to work toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. It was the first time the North said it could potentially resume weapons tests and other development activities since Kim signaled a new state policy in April.
In an interview with Fox News on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he plans to talk this week with his North Korean counterpart, apparently referring to senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol. Pompeo did not provide the location and date for the meeting, which will likely be focused on persuading North Korea to take firmer steps toward denuclearization and setting up a second summit between their leaders.
“A lot of work remains, but 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,” Pompeo said.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry statement, released under the name of the director of the ministry’s Institute for American Studies, said the “improvement of relations and sanctions is incompatible.”
“The U.S. thinks that its oft-repeated ‘sanctions and pressure’ leads to ‘denuclearization.’ We cannot help laughing at such a foolish idea,” it said.
Following a series of provocative nuclear and missile tests last year, Kim shifted to diplomacy when he met with Trump between three summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who lobbied hard to revive nuclear diplomacy.
However, the North has been playing hardball since the summits, insisting that sanctions should be lifted before any progress in nuclear talks, which fueled doubts about whether Kim would ever deal away a nuclear program he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.