Pyongyang stays tough with US and South Korea
North Korea continues to send tough messages to the United States and South Korea, suggesting time is running out for the allies to provide assurances over their joint military drills and denuclearization strategy.
Senior North Korean diplomat Han Tae-song was quoted by state media Friday as insisting that Pyongyang is ready to join global efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons. But according to KCNA news agency, he also condemned as "misleading and dangerous" the idea that the North is only willing to denuclearize due to sanctions.
Han was apparently at this week's United Nations disarmament conference in Switzerland, where he serves as North Korean ambassador.
"The discontinuation of nuclear tests is an important process for global disarmament," he said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un committed to peace and denuclearization during the first inter-Korean summit in over a decade last month, having shifted from a policy of rogue nuclear weapons development to dialogue after years of intensifying sanctions.
While Kim has also lined up an unprecedented meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on June 12, the North cast doubt on that summit earlier this week -- pulling out of planned inter-Korean talks on Wednesday due to the South's ongoing military drills with the U.S. and then warning Washington not to draw up denuclearization plans unilaterally.
Pyongyang has been particularly upset by the recommendation -- advocated by Trump's security adviser John Bolton -- that North Korea should denuclearize according to the Libya model, meaning that Pyongyang should give up nukes before receiving any benefits.
Trump appeared eager to dispel that concern when speaking to reporters at the White House Thursday, promising greater protection to Kim and urging him to come forward and make a deal that would make the North Korean leader "very, very happy".
Meanwhile, North Korea's official in charge of inter-Korean affairs, Ri Son-gwon, stated via a separate KCNA report Thursday that talks with the current South Korean government could be abandoned completely "unless the serious situation which led to the suspension of the north-south high-level talks is settled".
Ri was referring to Pyongyang's claim that the allies are conducting a military drill aimed at preparing for an invasion, as well as its displeasure over comments by high-profile North Korean defector Thae Yong-ho in Seoul's parliament Monday.
Thae, who escaped his post as a diplomat in London in 2016, is skeptical that the North is truly ready to denuclearize -- but Ri referred to him in the KCNA dispatch as "human scum" and blamed South Korean President Moon Jae-in for allowing him to criticize the Kim regime.