North Korea’s foreign minister said Saturday that his government would not denuclearize before it has sufficient trust in the United States.
“Without any trust in the U.S., there will be no confidence in our national security, and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first,” Ri Yong Ho told the U.N. General Assembly.
“The DPRK government’s commitment to the denuclearization is solid and firm, however, it is only possible if the U.S secures our sufficient trust towards the U.S.,” the foreign minister said.
DPRK is the acronym for the country’s formal name.
Ri said this lack of confidence in Washington is the reason denuclearization discussions have stalled since the historic Singapore summit in June between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un.
He warned that if both countries continue to harbor mistrust, the summit’s joint statement would suffer the same “fate of failure as all the previous agreements between the two countries.”
He noted that Pyongyang had taken “significant” goodwill steps, including stopping nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests (both are forbidden activities under existing U.N. Security Council resolutions) and dismantling the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, but had seen no corresponding response from Washington.
Critical of sanctions
The minister also said sanctions against his government only deepen the mistrust.
“The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe dream of the people who are ignorant about us,” Ri said.
President Trump has said that sanctions will remain in place against North Korea until complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization is achieved.
North Korea’s top diplomat did not mention Trump by name during his speech, nor did he offer him any praise or credit for the summit or warming of relations. Instead, he pointed to progress with South Korea – the leaders of the two countries have had three meetings – and said if the denuclearization issue were between them and not Washington, it would not be deadlocked.
By contrast, Trump in his remarks to the assembly on Tuesday, thanked Kim “for his courage and for the steps he has taken.” On Wednesday, he praised the isolated and reclusive North Korean leader again, saying he is “a man I have gotten to know and like.” Trump said the two would meet again in the “very near future" and expressed optimism that a deal could be reached.
North Korea’s foreign minister put much of the blame for the stalled momentum on U.S. domestic politics.
“Those in the political opposition in the U.S. make it their daily business to slander the DPRK claiming that we cannot be trusted, with the sole purpose of attacking their political opponent and they are forcing the administration to make unreasonable unilateral demands to our side, thereby impeding the smooth progress of the dialogue and negotiations.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Ri in New York and is planning to go to Pyongyang next month to continue discussions.