North Korea vowed to continue strengthening its military and said relations with the United States have fallen into “despair,” in a statement issued to mark the two-year anniversary of the Singapore summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.
The statement comes as the isolated communist country ramps up tensions with the United States and South Korea. This week, the North announced it would cut all communications channels with the South and issued a veiled threat to interfere in the November U.S. presidential election.
In a commentary published Friday in the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon said hope for peace on the Korean peninsula “has faded away into a dark nightmare” and that the situation is “daily taking a turn for the worse.”
“The question is whether there will be a need to keep holding hands shaken in Singapore, as we see that there is nothing of factual improvement to be made in the DPRK-U.S. relations simply by maintaining personal relations between our Supreme Leadership and the U.S. President,” Ri said. The official name of North Korea is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
At their Singapore summit in June 2018, Trump and Kim signed a brief statement agreeing to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The two sides never agreed on what that phrase meant or how to begin implementing it, even after two follow-up meetings between Trump and Kim.
Despite the stalled talks, Trump has at times portrayed his North Korea diplomacy as a foreign policy win, noting his relationship with Kim remains strong and that Pyongyang has not recently conducted any nuclear or long-range missile tests.
North Korea has often bristled at those comments. In his statement Friday, North Korea’s foreign minister accused Trump of focusing only on scoring domestic political points.
“In retrospect, all the practices of the present U.S. administration so far are nothing but accumulating its political achievements,” Ri said. “Never again will we provide the U.S. chief executive with another package to be used for achievements without receiving any returns.”
The nuclear talks stalled since Trump and Kim failed to reach a deal at their February summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, last year. North Korea wanted the U.S. to relax sanctions in exchange for the partial dismantlement of its nuclear facilities; Trump wanted Kim to agree to give up his entire nuclear program. Working-level talks resumed in October and ended unsuccessfully without making any progress toward denuclearization.
A State Department official told VOA’s Korean Service on Thursday that the United States remains committed to engaging North Korea “in meaningful negotiations so that North Koreans can realize a brighter future.”
“That offer remains on the table. We are willing to take a flexible approach to reach a balanced agreement on all of the Singapore summit commitments,” the official said.
Nuclear program continues
Though North Korea has refrained from nuclear tests, it continues developing nuclear weapons. According to some estimates, North Korea now has enough material for about 40 nuclear bombs.
Since the middle of last year, North Korea has also tested multiple new weapons systems, including short-range ballistic missiles that pose a major threat to U.S. allies in the region.
In comments at the beginning of the year, Kim said the world would soon witness a “new strategic weapon.”
Foreign Minister Ri did not make any specific threat in his comments Friday but noted that the “secure strategic goal of the DPRK is to build up more reliable force to cope with the long-term military threats from the U.S.”
North Korea has also been generating a diplomatic crisis with South Korea.
This week, North Korea announced it would halt all communications channels with the South, which it referred to as its “enemy.”
As an apparent pretext for its decision, North Korea cited recent activities by South Korean activists who occasionally float anti-Pyongyang leaflets into the North.
After the State Department said it was “disappointed” in that decision, North Korea said the U.S. should “keep its mouth shut” if it wanted to hold a “successful” presidential election in November.