North Korea will not relinquish its nuclear weapons until the US eliminates its own “nuclear threat,” according to a commentary published by state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“The proper definition of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is completely eliminating the American nuclear threat to North Korea before eliminating our nuclear capability,” the commentary says.
The US and North Korea are deadlocked in negotiations over how Pyongyang will denuclearize in return for the easing of sanctions.
On June 12 in Singapore, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump signed a vaguely worded pledge to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” However, in the six months since, talks have stalled and North Korean criticism of the US has sharpened, though Pyongyang has continued to heap praise on Trump.
The commentary published Thursday suggests one obstacle in the negotiations could be US military assets based in South Korea and the protection of South Korea under the US nuclear umbrella.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that we “still are working through the execution of Chairman Kim’s commitment to denuclearize,” but insisted the US is “undoubtedly” in a better situation with Pyongyang than it was a year ago.
“Undoubtedly,” Pompeo said when asked by Kansas radio station KNSS. “No more missiles being tested, no more nuclear testing. We’re in a better place today.”
Pompeo noted that he’s traveled to North Korea “now, oh goodness, three or four times. We’ll continue to have meetings, and we are hopeful that in the new year President Trump and Chairman Kim will get together not too long after the first of the year and make even further progress on taking this threat to the United States away from us.”
Asked about the presence of nuclear weapons on the peninsula, a US defense official said “we do not discuss the location of nuclear weapons; however, in the early ’90s, President George H. W. Bush announced the withdrawal of all naval and land-based tactical nuclear weapons deployed abroad.”
The KCNA commentary said that “when talking about the Korean peninsula, it encompasses not only our republic’s territory but also South Korea where the American nuclear weapons and armed forces for invasion are spread out. When talking about denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, [the US] needs to know that it means eliminating all nuclear threat factors.”
‘All neighboring areas’
The statement also says the US push toward the total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula should include the removal of nuclear threats from “not only the North and the South, but from all neighboring areas.”
North Korea has repeatedly refused US calls for it to unilaterally denuclearize, branding Washington’s demands a “delusion.”
The commentary states that if North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons, rather than lead to denuclearization it would render North Korea a “defenseless state” where the “balance in nuclear strategic strength is destroyed” and the “crisis of a nuclear war is brought forth.”
KCNA instead called on the US to implement the measures that North Korea has asked of Washington, which it said would not be difficult to “commit to and carry out.” These actions include ending the US’ “hostile policies” toward North Korea and halting “unjust sanctions.”
“It is obvious that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a joint business that cannot be achieved unless both Korea and the United States strive tougher,” the commentary states.
However, Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have rejected calls from China, Russia and North Korea itself for the US to lift sanctions on the isolated state until further progress is made toward denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
It has also rejected suggestions it intends to reduce its military presence in the region as part of any deal with Pyongyang. Despite this, Trump announced in June that he intends to halt large military exercises conducted alongside South Korea in the region.
It is now possible a second summit with Kim will be held in the new year to clarify the exact definition of denuclearization, after Trump stated in early December that one is likely to be scheduled for January or February.
US national security adviser John Bolton also said in early December that a second summit should be held, as North Korea has not lived up to its commitments.
“They have not lived up to the commitments so far,” he said at The Wall Street Journal’s annual CEO Council conference in Washington. “That’s why I think the President thinks that another summit is likely to be productive.”
US State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said Tuesday that the US “remains confident” about the push toward denuclearization, and that the US looks forward to the “commitments that Chairman Kim and President Trump have made.”
CNN’s Ryan Browne contributed to this report