NKorea: Might Lift Weapons Moratorium 07/16 06:11
North Korea on Tuesday suggested it might call off its 20-month suspension
of nuclear and missile tests because of summertime U.S.-South Korean military
drills that the North calls preparation for an eventual invasion.
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- North Korea on Tuesday suggested it might
call off its 20-month suspension of nuclear and missile tests because of
summertime U.S.-South Korean military drills that the North calls preparation
for an eventual invasion.
The statement by the North's Foreign Ministry comes amid a general deadlock
in nuclear talks, but after an extraordinary meeting of the U.S. and North
Korean leaders at the Korean border raised hopes that negotiations on the
North's growing nuclear and missile arsenal would soon resume.
The statement serves as a reminder of North Korea's longstanding antipathy
toward U.S.-South Korean military cooperation, which the allies call defensive
and routine but the North sees as hostile. It also ramps up the pressure on the
United States going into any new round of talks.
At the dramatic June 30 meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and
U.S. President Donald Trump, Trump crossed the border dividing the North and
South, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korean
territory. The leaders agreed in closed-door talks to resume nuclear diplomacy
that had been stalled since their failed second summit in Vietnam in February.
Despite the seeming mini-breakthrough, there has been little public progress
since. North Korea wants widespread relief from harsh U.S.-led sanctions in
return for pledging to give up parts of its weapons program, but the United
States is demanding greater steps toward disarmament before it agrees to
relinquish the leverage provided by the sanctions.
Amid the diplomatic jockeying, North Korea said Tuesday that upcoming
regular summertime U.S.-South Korean military drills are forcing it to rethink
whether it should be committed to the promises it has made to the United
States. It cited its moratorium on nuclear and missile tests and other steps
aimed at improving ties with Washington.
The statement said Trump vowed to suspend military drills with South Korea
during his first and third meetings with Kim, but the planned summertime drills
with Seoul and the deployment of weapons in the South show that Washington is
not fulfilling that promise.
"With the U.S. unilaterally reneging on its commitments, we are gradually
losing our justifications to follow through on the commitments we made with the
U.S. as well," said the statement, carried by the North's official Korean
Central News Agency.
It also said it is not bound by any legal documents to suspend its nuclear
and missile tests.
Since it conducted the third of its three intercontinental ballistic missile
tests in November 2017, North Korea hasn't tested any long-range missiles
potentially capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. After entering talks with
Washington, Kim suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests, allowing Trump
to boast of winning an achievement in his North Korea policy.
Later Tuesday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry issued another statement
warning that it will wait to see if the U.S.-South Korea military drills take
place as planned to decide on the fate of North Korea-U.S. nuclear diplomacy.
South Korea's National Intelligence Service, the country's main spy agency,
told lawmakers in a private briefing Tuesday that there were no suspicious
activities at North Korea's main long-range rocket launch site in the northwest
and its missile research center on the outskirts of Pyongyang, according to Kim
Min-ki, one of the lawmakers who attended the briefing.
Outside experts say North Korea has suggested that it could further put off
or cancel the resumption of nuclear talks if the United States doesn't offer to
accept its calls for a slow, step-by-step nuclear disarmament process or
widespread sanctions relief. But some analysts say North Korea will eventually
return to the talks because Kim wants cooperation with outside powers as part
of a plan to revive his country's troubled economy.