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By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Sept. 16 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean official said Monday that working-level talks with the United States will likely take place "in a few weeks" but emphasized that discussions on denuclearization will be possible only after all threats to the regime are fully removed.
The statement by the director-general handling American affairs at the North Korean foreign ministry appears to be aimed at strengthening its bargaining leverage by demanding that the regime should first be given security guarantees and sanctions relief before it can discuss giving up its nuclear program.
That suggests the upcoming negotiations could be tough.
"Clear and invariable is the DPRK's stand. The discussion of denuclearization may be possible when threats and hurdles endangering our system security and obstructing our development are clearly removed beyond all doubt," he said in the statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
"Whether the DPRK-U.S. negotiations will be a window for chance or an occasion to precipitate crisis is entirely up to the U.S.," the official said, using the abbreviation for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The official also said that he hopes the upcoming "negotiations expected to be held in a few weeks will be a good meeting," but depending on what proposal the U.S. puts forward, the "negotiations may improve the relations and, on the contrary, may add to the hostility towards each other."
Last week, North Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said in a statement that the North is willing to sit down with the U.S. in late September but urged the U.S. to come up with a new "calculation method."
Nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington have been stalled since the no-deal summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump in February.
The summit fell apart as they failed to find common ground over Pyongyang's denuclearization steps and Washington's corresponding measures, including sanctions relief.
The U.S. has claimed that there will be no sanctions relief until the North's complete denuclearization.
Washington recently sanctioned three entities it accused of conducting cyber attacks on behalf of the North Korean government to generate revenue for the regime's nuclear and missile programs.