North Korea chides US pressure on denuclearisation

North Korea chides US pressure on denuclearisation

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shakes hands with North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho during their meeting in the capital Tehran on August 7, 2018. The Korean minister is on a three-day state visit to the country. AFP

North Korea on Thursday denounced US calls for enforcing international sanctions despite its goodwill moves and said progress on denuclearisation promises could not be expected if Washington followed an "outdated acting script."

North Korea's foreign ministry said Pyongyang had stopped nuclear and missile tests, dismantled a nuclear test ground and returned the remains of some US soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean War.

Yet Washington was still insisting on "denuclearisation first" and had "responded to our expectation by inciting international sanctions and pressure" it said.

"As long as the US denies even the basic decorum for its dialogue partner and clings to the outdated acting script which the previous administrations have all tried and failed, one cannot expect any progress in the implementation of the DPRK-US joint statement including the denuclearisation," the ministry said.

The statement on the KCNA state news agency said North Korea, which calls itself the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, was still willing to implement a broad agreement made at a landmark June 12 summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

But it accused unidentified high-level US officials of "going against the intention of President Trump" by "making baseless allegations against us and making desperate attempts at intensifying the international sanctions and pressure."

It said "expecting any result, while insulting the dialogue partner" was "a foolish act that amounts to waiting to see a boiled egg hatch out."

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

The North Korean statement followed comments this week by top American diplomats stressing the need for Pyongyang to take additional steps toward denuclearisation and contentious remarks last week by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on the sidelines of a regional summit in Singapore.

Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, said this week that Pyongyang had not taken the necessary steps to denuclearise while US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Washington was "not willing to wait for too long."

Ri travelled this week to Iran, where President Hassan Rouhani told him the United States cannot be trusted after the Trump administration reneged on a 2015 deal to lift sanctions in return for curbs on Iran's own nuclear program.

US officials have declined to comment on a report on the Vox news website on Wednesday saying that North Korea had repeatedly rejected a US proposal to cut its nuclear arsenal by 60 to 70% within six to eight months.

US officials familiar with the talks, however, told Reuters that North Korea had yet to agree to a timeline for eliminating its nuclear arsenal or to disclose its size, which US estimates have put at between 30 and 60 warheads.

Meanwhile, Russia and China on Thursday blocked a US request to add a Russian bank to a UN sanctions blacklist along with a North Korean official and two entities, diplomats said.

The United States last week asked a UN sanctions committee to slap an assets freeze on Agrosoyuz Commercial Bank for allegedly helping North Korea evade UN-imposed restrictions on financial transactions.

The request also targeted Ri Jong Won, the deputy representative of North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank and two North Korean front companies.

In a response to the council, Russia raised doubts about the allegations while China told the council that it objected to the proposed sanctions designations put forward by the United States.

"We would like to underline that designation requests submitted to the committee should be adequately substantiated by sufficient information," said the Russian mission to the United Nations in a message to the council seen by AFP.

The request followed a US Treasury Department decision to impose unilateral sanctions on the Russian bank, the North Korean official and the two entities.

The two companies were named as the Dandong Zhongsheng Industry & Trade Company and the Korea Ungum Corporation.

Russia and China have called on the Security Council to consider easing sanctions to reward North Korea for opening up dialogue with the United States and halting missile tests.

But the United States has called for maintaining "maximum pressure" from sanctions until North Korea has fully dismantled its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Earlier on Thursday, the North Korean foreign ministry issued an angry statement, denouncing the United States for responding to its overtures by "inciting international sanctions and pressure."

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