After sanctions from USA, North Korea said it has no intentions of unilaterally giving up its nuclear weapons unless the “nuclear threat” is removed.
The harsh statement comes as a contrast to Seoul’s presentation of a North Korean position that is more open to compromise. This harsh stance from Pyongyang could be detrimental for the fragile peace process of the region between North Korea, South Korea and the USA. Many have feared that a war could break out in the Korean peninsula due to rising tensions between the neighbors.
The statements from North Korea come as the United States and North Korea struggle over the sequencing of the denuclearisation that USA wants and the removal of international sanctions desired by Pyongyang.
The statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency also raises credibility problems for the liberal South Korean government, which has continuously claimed that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is genuinely interested in negotiating away his nuclear weapons as Seoul tries to keep alive a positive atmosphere for dialogue.
The North’s comments may also be taken up as proof of what many outside skeptics have long said: that Kim will never voluntarily relinquish an arsenal he sees as a stronger guarantee of survival than whatever security assurances the United States might provide.
N. Korea is likely to demand the removal of 28,500 American troops deployed in S. Korea, which is expected to be a contention in a potential disarmament deal.
President Trump met with his N. Korean counterpart on 12th June in Singapore in a groundbreaking meeting. Both leaders expressed a desire to “completely denuclearize” the Korean peninsula, but nothing concrete came out of this meeting. Apart from a vague sentiment both parties did not clarify how this would happen, but authorities on both ends are trying to arrange a meeting in the coming year.
But North Korea for decades has been pushing a concept of denuclearisation that bears no resemblance to the American definition, with Pyongyang vowing to pursue nuclear development until the United States removes its troops and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan. In Thursday’s statement, the North made clear it’s sticking to its traditional stance on denuclearisation. It accused Washington of twisting what had been agreed on in Singapore and driving post-summit talks into an impasse.
“The United States must now recognise the accurate meaning of the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, and especially, must study geography,” the statement said.
“When we talk about the Korean Peninsula, it includes the territory of our republic and also the entire region of [South Korea] where the United States has placed its invasive force, including nuclear weapons. When we talk about the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, it means the removal of all sources of nuclear threat, not only from the South and North but also from areas neighboring the Korean Peninsula,” the statement said. The United States removed its tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in the 1990s, there has been no statement made by the foreign offices of Seoul or Washington on the issue.
North Korea’s rigidity on its traditional position on denuclearisation could damaging for the Korean diplomacy, which was revived early this year following a series of provocative nuclear and missile tests that left Kim and Trump spending most of 2017 exchanging personal insults and war threats.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who met Kim three times this year and lobbied hard for the Trump-Kim meeting, has said that Kim wasn’t demanding the withdrawal of US troops from the Korean Peninsula as a precondition for abandoning his nuclear weapons. But Kim has never made such comments in public.
“The blunt statement could be an indicator that the North has no intentions to return to the negotiation table anytime soon,” said Shin Beomchul, a senior analyst at Seoul’s Asian Institute for Policy Studies. “It’s clear that the North intends to keep its nukes and turn the diplomatic process into a bilateral arms reduction negotiation with the United States, rather than a process where it unilaterally surrenders its program.”
The nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since the Trump-Kim meeting. The United States wants North Korea to provide a detailed account of nuclear and missile facilities that would be inspected and dismantled under a potential deal, while the North is insisting that sanctions be lifted first.
The North Korean statement came a day after Stephen Biegun, the Trump administration’s special envoy on North Korea, told reporters in South Korea that Washington was reviewing easing travel restrictions on North Korea to facilitate humanitarian shipments to help resolve the impasse in nuclear negotiations.