North Korea threatens to restart nuclear program unless U.S. lifts sanctions

North Korea has warned the United States to restart the development of its nuclear weapons program unless the United States lifts  the tough economic sanctions.

The Trump administration has insisted that sanctions and other pressures remain on North Korea until it dismantles its nuclear program. Kim’s regime, however, has always demanded a step-by-step process of denuclearization that would include lifting U.S. sanctions along the way.

For years, the North had pursued a “byungjin” policy of simultaneously developing its nuclear capabilities alongside the economy.

In April, citing a “fresh climate of detente and peace” on the peninsula, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared the nuclear quest complete and said his country would focus on “socialist economic construction”.

In a statement by the Foreign Ministry on Friday evening said North Korea could bring back its “pyongjin” policy of simultaneously advancing its nuclear force and economic development if the United States doesn’t change its stance. The North sopped short of threatening to abandon ongoing nuclear negotiations with Washington.

The issue of sanctions has also created a rift between Seoul and Washington.

South Korea has backed the North’s call for sanctions relief and is keen to get moving on an ambitious program of economic development and cooperation, including building road and rail links across the countries’ heavily militarized frontier.

n an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he plans to talk next week with his North Korean counterpart, apparently referring to senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol. Pompeo did not provide the location and date for the meeting, which will likely be focused on persuading North Korea to take firmer steps toward denuclearization and setting up a second summit between their leaders.

“A lot of work remains, but I’m confident that we will keep the economic pressure in place until such time as Chairman Kim fulfills the commitment he made to President Trump back in June in Singapore,” Pompeo said.

The U.S. thinks that its oft-repeated ‘sanctions and pressure’ leads to ‘denuclearization.’ We cannot help laughing at such a foolish idea,” it said. The ministry described the lifting of U.S.-led sanctions as corresponding action to the North’s “proactive and good-will measures,” apparently referring to its unilateral suspension of nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and closure of a nuclear testing ground.

Following a series of provocative nuclear and missile tests last year, Kim shifted to diplomacy when he met with Trump between three summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who lobbied hard to revive nuclear diplomacy.

However, the North has been playing hardball since the summits, insisting that sanctions should be lifted before any progress in nuclear talks, which fueled doubts about whether Kim would ever deal away a nuclear program he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.

TIME

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