North Korea has vowed that “under no circumstances” will it put its nuclear weapons on the negotiating table. Earlier, Pyongyang threatened to make the US pay “thousands of times” for drafting the latest sanctions.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho struck a defiant tone Monday at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Manila, Asia’s largest security forum, saying the latest round of UN sanctions would not stop it from developing its nuclear arsenal.
“We will under no circumstances put the nukes and ballistic rockets on [the] negotiating table,” Pyongyang’s top diplomat told ASEAN delegates, among them US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “Neither shall we flinch even an inch from the road to bolstering up the nuclear forces chosen by ourselves unless the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the US against North Korea is fundamentally eliminated.”
Despite the strong posturing, North Korea has found itself increasingly isolated since it conducted two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICMB) tests last month. The second test in particular raised fear that Pyongyang could be on the cusp of developing missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.
China, the North’s principal ally and economic lifeline, agreed to fully implement the latest round of sanctions, which will slash around $1 billion (850 million euros), or roughly one-third, of the reclusive state’s export revenue.
The sanctions also bar countries from employing North Korean laborers commissioned to work abroad.
Furthermore, they ban any new joint business ventures with the regime, as well as fresh investment into such existing ventures.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in the Philippine capital that “China will for sure implement that new resolution 100 percent, fully and strictly.”
The US-drafted sanctions, designed to deprive Kim Jong Un’s regime of funds for its weapons program, were approved unanimously Saturday by the UN Security Council.
North threatens to respond
However, Ri said the latest penalties imposed on the North typified the US pushing Pyongyang into a corner, forcing it to defend itself.
“Because of the arbitrariness of the US, the situation in the Korean Peninsula is heading further into the extreme with the danger of conflict on continuous increase,” he said.
Ri also stressed that North Korea was a “responsible nuclear power and ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] state,” adding that it has “no intention to use nuclear weapons against or threaten with nuclear weapons any other country except the US, unless it joins military action of the US against North Korea” – possibly referring to China and Russia, who have in the past provided diplomatic cover for Pyongyang.
A similar stance was also emphasized in an earlier statement made via the North Korean regime’s official KCNA news agency, in which the North threatened to take “righteous action” and make the US “pay the price for its crime… thousands of times” for drafting the sanctions.
Tillerson sets high bar for talks
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out a narrow path for North Korea to return to dialogue and ultimately see the latest round of sanctions lifted, stressing that Pyongyang must first stop testing its missile for “extended period” before any future negotiations will be considered.
“The best signal that North Korea could send that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” Tillerson said. “This is not a ‘give me 30 days and we are ready to talk.’ It’s not quite that simple. So it is all about how we see their attitude towards approaching a dialogue with us.”
On Monday, Tillerson also held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and sought to present a common stance on North Korea.
“It’s quite clear in terms of there being no daylight between the international community as to the expectation that North Korea will take steps to achieve all of my objectives, which is a denuclearized Korean peninsula,” he said.