North Korea issued a straightforward statement Thursday saying Pyongyang won’t denuclearize until the United States removes its nuclear threat from the region first.
“The proper definition of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is completely eliminating the American nuclear threat to North Korea before eliminating our nuclear capability,” commentary published by state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) declared.
The United States and North Korea have been entrenched in negotiations since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed at their June 12 summit to “work toward complete denuclearization,” but in the roughly six months since, few concrete developments have been made.
In Thursday remarks, which are attributed to an individual named Jong Hyon, North Korea is insisting the U.S. remove “all elements of nuclear threats from the areas of both the north and the south of Korea and also from surrounding areas from where the Korean peninsula is targeted.”
The statement’s distinction of not only removing the nuclear threat from North and South Korea but the surrounding regions mirrors the reverse debate in the U.S. on whether the strategy is focused on “denuclearization of North Korea” or “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
“I don’t want to split words, and I think our policy has been clear,” State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters Tuesday.
North Korea has asked for several concessions in the past before committing to complete denuclearization, including demanding the U.S. lift sanctions on the country, a request to officially end the Korean War and asking for a second meeting with Trump.
The State Department cancelled a much anticipated meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean official Kim Yong Chol in November with little explanation, saying the meeting “will now take place at a later date.”
Pompeo insisted Thursday that the U.S. is “undoubtedly” in a better place with the communist dictatorship than it was a year ago.
“No more missiles being tested, no more nuclear testing. We’re in a better place today,” Pompeo said to Kansas radio station KNSS.
Pyongyang’s heightened request comes just a day after the U.S. was in talks about easing a travel ban and letting American aid workers deliver humanitarian relief to North Korea, The Wall Street Journal reported.
This potential concession came as Trump’s special envoy to North Korea, Stephen Biegun, landed in Seoul for meetings with South Korean officials regarding North Korea’s denuclearization.
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