North Korea denies sanctions prompted diplomatic thaw
North Korea has broken its silence on the diplomatic thaw with Washington and Seoul, saying it is driving the “peace offensive” and rejecting suggestions that sanctions forced it to the negotiating table.
The commentary from the state-run KCNA news agency came with a rapid rapprochement on the Korean peninsula under way, after a period of heightened tensions stoked by missile and nuclear tests.
But as diplomats scurry to arrange two proposed summits — North-South talks followed by a face-to-face meet between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un — the North’s silence had raised concerns over its intentions.
The commentary in the North’s official news agency KCNA late Tuesday did not directly mention the summits but noted the “dramatic atmosphere for reconciliation” with the South and “a sign of change” with the US.
But it said Pyongyang’s overtures came from a position of strength, not from weakness, even as it confronts intense international pressure as well as biting economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme.
“The dialogue peace offensive of the DPRK is an expression of self-confidence as it has acquired everything it desires,” it said, using the North’s official name.
It also slammed hawks in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo for questioning the sincerity and motivation behind the North’s willingness to step back from the brink.
“Such rubbish as ‘result of sanctions and pressure’… spread by hostile forces is just as meaningless as a dog barking at the moon,” it said, urging “prudence” for all parties involved.
“It is really an expression of small-mindedness for the riff-raffs to spoil the atmosphere and say this or that even before the parties concerned are given a chance to study the inner thoughts of the other side and are seated at a negotiating table,” it said in typically colourful language.
Trump’s announcement earlier this month that he was willing to meet with the North’s young leader — after an invitation conveyed by envoys from the South — triggered a flurry of diplomatic activity.
The North’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho met his counterpart from Sweden, which represents Washington’s interests in North Korea, in Stockholm over the weekend, with reports saying they discussed the release of three Americans detained in the North.
Choe Kang Il, a senior Pyongyang diplomat handling ties with the US, is currently in Finland for discussions with the retired former US ambassador to Seoul, Kathleen Stephens.
The South and the US announced Tuesday a plan to resume annual joint military exercises with its main drill shortened by a month — in an apparent conciliatory gesture over an event that infuriates the North.
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