North Korea said on Tuesday the United States had ignored a deadline for nuclear talks and it no longer felt bound by its commitments, which included a halt to nuclear testing and inter-continental ballistic missile tests, and may “seek a new path”.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un set a year-end deadline for denuclearisation talks with the United States and White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said at the time the United States had opened channels of communication.
O’Brien said then he hoped Kim would follow through on denuclearisation commitments he made at summits with U.S. President Donald Trump.
U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood voiced concern at Pyongyang’s latest remarks and said Washington hoped the North would return to the negotiating table.
Ju Yong Chol, a counsellor at North Korea’s mission to the U.N. in Geneva, said that over the past two years, his country had halted nuclear tests and test firing of inter-continental ballistic missiles, “in order to build confidence with the United States”.
However, the U.S. had responded by conducting dozens of joint military exercises with South Korea on the divided peninsula and by imposing sanctions, he said.
“As it became clear now that the U.S. remains unchanged in its ambition to block the development of the DPRK and stifle its political system, we found no reason to be unilaterally bound any longer by the commitment that the other party fails to honour,” Ju told the U.N.-backed Conference on Disarmament.
Speaking as the envoy from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea’s official name, Ju accused the United States of applying “the most brutal and inhuman sanctions”.
“If the U.S. persists in such hostile policy towards the DPRK there will never be the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” he said.
“If the United States tries to enforce unilateral demands and persists in imposing sanctions, North Korea may be compelled to seek a new path.”
North Korea warned in December that it may take an unspecified “new path” if the United States failed to meet its expectations with a new approach to negotiations.
U.S. military commanders said the move could include the testing of a long-range missile, which North Korea has suspended since 2017, along with nuclear warhead tests.
“In the past two years, the DPRK took the initiative by taking crucial measures to halt nuclear tests, (halt) test firing of ICBMs and dismantle the nuclear testing ground in order to build confidence with the United States,” Ju said.
“However, far from responding with appropriate measures, the U.S. threatened DPRK militarily by conducting dozens of large- and small-scale joint military exercises (with South Korea) which the U.S. President himself promised to discontinue…”
Pyongyang has rejected unilateral disarmament and given no indication that it is willing to go beyond statements of broad support for the concept of universal denuclearisation.
“The U.S. behaviour also threw a wet blanket over our efforts for global disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons,” Ju said.
North Korea has said in previous, failed talks that it could consider giving up its arsenal if the United States provided security guarantees by removing its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.
Impoverished North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North regularly used to threaten to destroy the South’s main ally, the United States, before rapprochement began after the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
“My hope is that they are not talking about moving away from that agreement reached between President Trump and Chairman Kim in 2018,” Wood told reporters.
“What we hope is that they will do the right thing and come back to the table and try to work out an arrangement where by we can fulfil that pledge that was made by President Trump and Chairman Kim to denuclearise,” he said.