North’s Geneva envoy says moratorium is off

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North’s Geneva envoy says moratorium is off

A North Korean envoy to the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday echoed Pyongyang’s declaration last month that it would no longer be bound by a self-imposed moratorium to suspend nuclear and missile tests due to the United States’ failure to meet a year-end negotiations deadline.

According to Reuters, Ju Yong-chol, a counselor at North Korea’s UN mission, said at the Conference on Disarmament held in Geneva, Switzerland, that the United States was responsible for “the most brutal and inhumane sanctions” on North Korea and that there would be no denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula if such a “hostile policy” continued.

The remarks were almost a verbatim repetition of parts of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s speech at a plenary meeting of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee on Dec. 31, in which the dictator vowed to unveil a “new strategic weapon” and conduct a “shocking action” to make Washington pay for the damages done to his country.

Ju said Pyongyang “may be compelled to seek a new path” if Washington continued to enforce unilateral demands and sanctions on the North, referring to Kim’s threat to abandon diplomacy made in a New Year’s speech in 2019.

“As it became clear now that the U.S. remains unchanged in its ambition to block the development of the DRPK and stifle its political system, we found no reason to be unilaterally bound to the commitment that the other party fails to honor,” Ju said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The diplomat’s words were the first public comments from the North Korean government this year on this concept of a “new path,” which Kim has hinted could involve the regime returning to developing nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Ju effectively confirmed such a definition, stressing the regime will “steadily develop strategic weapons, essential and prerequisite for national security” until the United States relented.

Denuclearization negotiations remain deadlocked between Pyongyang and Washington, due to the United States’ refusal to grant sanctions relief unless North Korea takes sufficient steps toward dismantling its nuclear program.

The Conference on Disarmament is a UN-backed multilateral forum that meets annually in three separate sessions in Geneva to negotiate arms control. The conference has 65 official members, which include North Korea and the United States.

The U.S. delegate to the conference, Ambassador Robert Wood, told reporters that Ju’s remarks were “quite concerning” but added he hoped Pyongyang would return to the negotiating table to work out an arrangement for its denuclearization.

“We’ve been very frank the weapon systems that North Korea possesses are a real risk to our security and the security of others,” Wood said.

The Croatian delegation, which chairs the conference this year, urged North Korea to stop any nuclear or ballistic missile tests and return to dialogue.

South Korea’s ambassador to the body, Lee Jang-keun, said Seoul too would keep faith with sanctions imposed by UN Security Council resolutions but was looking to find “realistic ways” to improve inter-Korean relations - an apparent reference to South Korea’s interest in opening up individual tourism to the North.

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