North Korea criticizes ‘hostile policy’ as U.S. diplomat visits South Korea

North Korea criticizes ‘hostile policy’ as U.S. diplomat visits South Korea
SEOUL (Reuters) – A U.S. report calling North Korea a sponsor of terrorism shows a “hostile policy” that prevents progress in denuclearization talks, the isolated nation said on Tuesday, as a senior U.S. diplomat was set to arrive in the neighboring South.

North Korea accused the United States of failing to show flexibility after a breakdown last month in the first talks between their officials since President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed in June to reopen negotiations.

“The channel of dialogue between the DPRK and the U.S. is more and more narrowing due to such attitude,” North Korean state news agency KCNA said, citing a Foreign Ministry official, and using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

It said a U.S. State Department report on terrorism “proves once again” that U.S. rejection of North Korea indicated “a hostile policy”.

The agency was referring to “Country Reports on Terrorism 2018”, issued last week, which reaffirmed North Korea’s re-designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Tuesday’s statement came ahead of a visit to Seoul by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell, who is expected to discuss the stalled talks with North Korea, as well as the South’s decision to end an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.

“I look forward to productive meetings with your government so we can reaffirm the security alliance as the cornerstone of the peace and security here in the region,” Stilwell told reporters late on Tuesday upon arrival at Incheon airport.

U.S. officials did not describe Stilwell’s agenda in detail, but said he would discuss the strength of the U.S.-South Korea alliance and cooperation across foreign policies.

Washington has urged South Korea to rethink a decision to end an intelligence-sharing agreement scrapped in an escalating political and economic dispute with Japan.

On Tuesday, Kim In-chul, a spokesman for South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, said there was no change in its stance not to renew the intelligence-sharing pact, however.

The top U.S. negotiator in defense cost-sharing talks with South Korea, James DeHart, was also set to arrive in Seoul on Tuesday, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said.

In April, North Korean leader Kim said the country would give Washington until the end of the year to be “more flexible” in denuclearization talks, but state media have since given only vague warnings about what will happen if the deadline expires.

The United States and North Korea could hold another round of working-level talks as soon as mid-November, South Korean lawmaker Lee Eun-jae said on Monday after a briefing by Seoul’s National Intelligence Service.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; additional reporting by Daewoung Kim and Chaeyoun Won; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Clarence Fernandez and Alison Williams)

North Korea condemns U.S. sanctions, warns denuclearization at risk

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a constructions site of Yangdeok, in this undated photo released on October 31, 2018 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA/via REUTERS.

By Hyunjoo Jin and Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea on Sunday condemned the U.S. administration for stepping up sanctions and pressure on the nuclear-armed country, warning of a return to “exchanges of fire” and that disarming Pyongyang could be blocked forever.

The North’s stinging response came after the United States said on Monday it had introduced sanctions on three North Korean officials, including a top aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, for alleged human rights abuses.

Denuclearizing North Korea has made little progress since Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump met in Singapore in June in a historic summit. The two sides have yet to reschedule working-level talks between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol, which were canceled abruptly in November.

While crediting Trump for his “willingness” to improve relations with the North, also known as DPRK, Pyongyang accused the U.S. State Department of being “bent on bringing the DPRK-U.S. relations back to the status of last year which was marked by exchanges of fire.”

North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Washington had taken “sanctions measures for as many as eight times against the companies, individuals and ships of not only the DPRK but also Russia, China and other third countries…”

If the U.S. administration believed that heightened sanctions and pressure would force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons, “it will count as (its) greatest miscalculation, and it will block the path to denuclearization on the Korean peninsula forever – a result desired by no one,” according to the statement.

The foreign ministry statement was released under the name of the policy research director of the Institute for American Studies.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin and Josh Smith; Editing by Mark Potter)

North Korea and U.S. clash at disarmament forum

FILE PHOTO: North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations Han Tae Song attends an interview with Reuters at the Permanent Mission of North Korea in Geneva, Switzerland, November 17, 2017.

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – North Korea said on Tuesday it had a “powerful and reliable” nuclear deterrent to thwart any attack and accused the United States of deploying military assets nearby under the pretext of ensuring security at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

“This is a dangerous act of throwing a wet blanket over the current positive atmosphere of inter-Korean relations … which could drive again into an extreme phase of confrontation,” Han Tae Song, North Korea’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Monday a thaw in relations between the two Koreas ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics presented a “precious chance” for the United States and North Korea to discuss the North’s weapons programs.

North Korea is developing missile and nuclear technology amid regular threats to destroy the United States and Japan and in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Han, addressing the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament, said nuclear tests last year had allowed his country to “perfect a national nuclear force” in a transparent manner.

“Thus DPRK (North Korea) at last came to possess a powerful and reliable war deterrent,” he told the Geneva forum.

“I am proudly saying that DPRK’s nuclear force is capable of frustrating and countering any nuclear threats from the U.S. and it constitutes a powerful deterrent that prevents the U.S. from starting an adventurous war.”

Han said as a “responsible nuclear power” North Korea could not resort to using the weapons unless hostile forces violate its sovereignty or interests.

U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood said: “The United States will not recognize North Korea as a nuclear weapon state.

“If the North wishes to return and be in the good graces of the international community, it knows what it has to do, it has to take steps toward denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.”

In an earlier speech on Tuesday, United Nations disarmament official Izumi Nakamitsu welcomed an easing of tensions between North and South Korea but called for further steps toward removing nuclear weapons from the divided peninsula.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Janet Lawrence)

Exclusive: North Korea rules out negotiations on nuclear weapons

Exclusive: North Korea rules out negotiations on nuclear weapons

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – North Korea on Friday ruled out negotiations with Washington as long as joint U.S-South Korea military exercises continue, and said that Pyongyang’s atomic weapons program would remain as a deterrent against a U.S. nuclear threat.

In an interview with Reuters, Han Tae Song, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, brushed off the new sanctions which the Trump administration has said it is preparing, as well as the possibility of North Korea being added to a U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism.

South Korea and the United States agreed on Friday to keep working for a peaceful end to the North Korean nuclear crisis, but a U.S. envoy said it was difficult to gauge the reclusive North’s intentions as there has been “no signal”.

Han, asked about those bilateral talks in Seoul, replied: “As long as there is continuous hostile policy against my country by the U.S. and as long as there are continued war games at our doorstep, then there will not be negotiations.”

“There are continued military exercises using nuclear assets as well as aircraft carriers, and strategic bombers and then…raising such kinds of military exercises against my country,” he said.

He, who is ambassador to the U.N.’s Conference on Disarmament, was speaking at the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) mission in Geneva, where the DPRK and the United States secured a 1994 nuclear deal which later fell apart.

He said he had no information on when North Korea might test a ballistic missile again, after the last one two months ago.

“The DPRK, my country, will continue to build-up its self-defense capability, the pivot of which is nuclear forces and capability for a triumphant…strike as long as U.S. and hostile forces keep up nuclear threat and blackmail,” Han said.

“Our country plans ultimate completion of the nuclear force,” he said.

‘NUCLEAR DETERRENT’

China said on Thursday that a “dual suspension” proposal to handle North Korea was still the best option, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping had rejected a “freeze for freeze” agreement.

Han, asked about China’s latest appeal for a freeze, said “the situation is far from those things”.

Han said that U.S. administrations had “never accepted” halting joint military exercises, adding: “So if they accept such things, then we will think what we do in the future.”

North Korea could not consider abandoning its nuclear program, he said, adding: “This is the deterrent, the nuclear deterrent to cope with the nuclear threat from America.”

Han said that Trump was expected to announce further sanctions against North Korea. Existing sanctions have constituted “large-scale human rights violations” that had delayed delivery of aid and consumer goods, he said.

“It is obvious that the aim of the sanctions is to overthrow the system of my country by isolating and stifling it and to intentionally bring about humanitarian disaster instead of preventing weapons development as claimed by the U.S. and its followers,” he said.

Han, asked whether new U.S. sanctions were expected against North Korean individuals or financial structures, said:

“The media is saying the Americans and Trump are considering such things.

“But that is their business and then we don’t mind what they want to do against my country since the aim is quite clear.

“So we are ready for such kinds of measures taken by America against my country,” he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)