US-led sanctions and US president Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” strategy had nothing to do with North Korea’s recently declared intention to denuclearise, Pyongyang said on Sunday.
North Korean state-owned KCNA news agency warned the United States against “misleading public opinion” by taking credit for the move, as Trump has claimed. Several US senators have even called for the president to win a Nobel Peace prize for his role in the Inter-Korean Summit.
Impoverished North Korea has been hit by a series of UN and US sanctions in recent years in a bid to rein in its nuclear and missile programmes. After years of ignoring these sanctions, China – the North’s largest trading partner – cut off much of their partnership with Pyongyang; a move that experts believe would have devastated the North’s economy.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula in the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade on April 27, but the declaration did not include concrete steps to reach that goal.
The United States should not “deliberately provoke” the North by moving to deploy strategic assets in South Korea and raising human rights issues, KCNA said, citing a foreign ministry spokesman.
“This act cannot be construed otherwise than a dangerous attempt to ruin the hardly-won atmosphere of dialogue and bring the situation back to square one,” the spokesman was quoted as saying.
It would not be conducive to resolving the issue of denuclearisation if Washington miscalculated North Korea’s “peace-loving intention” as a sign of weakness and continued to pursue its pressure and military threats, KCNA said.
A meeting between Trump and Kim is expected in the coming weeks. Trump has hailed progress toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, but also warned that the US and its allies will keep up “maximum pressure” in the lead up to talks.
Trump has said he refuses to “repeat the mistakes of past administrations,” claiming his tough stance is what led to the breakthrough.
The White House said that Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, met his South Korean counterpart, Chung Eui-yong, on Friday and both said there were no plans to change the US–South Korea bilateral defence posture.
The US currently has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the Korean War which, technically, never ended. An armistice was signed in 1953, but no peace treaty has ever been agreed.
Additional reporting by Reuters.