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(3rd LD) N. Korea says it would be miscalculation if U.S. confronts Pyongyang with sanctions

13:58 August 23, 2019

(ATTN: REPLACES quotes with English statement, details throughout)
By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's top diplomat warned Friday that it would be a miscalculation if the United States tries to use sanctions to deal with the communist regime, after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the "toughest" sanctions will remain unless Pyongyang denuclearizes.

Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho also warned in a statement that Pyongyang is ready for both dialogue and a standoff, but it will remain "the biggest threat" to Washington for a long time should the U.S. stick to a hostile stance.

"The U.S. is sadly mistaken if it still thinks of standing in confrontation with the DPRK with sanctions, not dropping its confrontational stand," Ri said in the English statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency. DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"Then, we will remain as the biggest threat to the U.S. for long and long and will make it understand for sure what it has to do for the denuclearization," he added. "We are ready for both dialogue and stand-off."

He strongly criticized U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for hampering talks and called him "the diehard toxin of the U.S. diplomacy," citing a recent media interview in which Pompeo said that the toughest sanctions will be kept in place until the North gives up its nuclear weapons.

Pompeo said in a media interview earlier this week that he hopes North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will deliver on his commitment to denuclearize but added "in the event that he doesn't, we'll continue to keep on the sanctions that are the toughest in all of history."

"Is he really the man who begged for denuclearization and pledged the establishment of new DPRK-U.S. relations when he was received by the chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK during his several visits to Pyongyang?" he said, referring to his previous trips to Pyongyang and meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

"He is truly impudent enough to utter such thoughtless words which only leave us disappointed and skeptical as to whether we can solve any problem with such a guy," he added.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho (Yonhap)

Friday's statement came a day after the North said it has no interest in talks as long as military threats continue, taking issue with Seoul's move to introduce F-35 stealth fighters from Washington. It also came after top U.S. nuclear envoy, Stephen Biegun, said in Seoul on Wednesday that Washington is ready to resume talks with Pyongyang.

Biegun's trip, which coincided with the end of a joint military drill by Seoul and Washington, spawned speculation that the North and the U.S. could soon resume working-level talks following a monthslong stalemate caused by the no-deal breakdown of their summit in February.

The summit fell apart as they failed to find common ground over Pyongyang's denuclearization steps and Washington's sanctions relief.

North Korea has beefed up criticism of South Korea and the U.S. for heightening tensions by holding their summertime joint military exercise. Pyongyang has also slammed Seoul for its arms build-up, such as the introduction of the F-35A fighter jets. Seoul plans to deploy 40 F-35As through 2021.

On Wednesday, Biegun told reporters here that Washington is ready to resume stalled denuclearization talks as soon as he hears from his counterparts in North Korea.

Speculation arose that the U.S. and North Korea might resume their denuclearization negotiations soon as U.S. President Donald Trump earlier said that North Korean leader Kim expressed his willingness to resume talks once the military exercise between Seoul and Washington is over.

Trump and Kim agreed to restart working-level talks within several weeks when they met at the inter-Korean border on June 30. The promised talks have not taken place amid tensions sparked by the North's recent series of weapons tests in protest of the Seoul-Washington military exercise.

Experts see the North's recent sharp-worded statements as expressing displeasure with Washington and apparently signaling that Pyongyang is not in a rush to resume bilateral nuclear talks. Some see it as intended to strengthening its negotiation leverage before coming out for talks.

Seoul's unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs urged Pyongyang and Washington to build mutual trust and respect in each other, hoping they could produce "good results" in their denuclearization talks.



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