Fragile peace? N. Korea threatens to produce nukes again if US sanctions remain

Pyongyang may resume building up its nuclear arsenals if Washington’s economic sanctions remain in place, the reclusive state has said amid diplomatic bargaining over the future of Korean peace talks.

“If the US keeps behaving arrogant without showing any change in its stand,” North Korea may restart building up nuclear forces while also pushing for economic development, Pyongyang has said on Friday evening in a statement released by its state-run news agency.

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FILE PHOTO © Fabian Bimmer

North Korea is widely thought to have obtained enough weapons-grade plutonium to weaponize dozens of warheads. South Korea believes its northern neighbor may have developed 20 to 60 nuclear weapons, according to intelligence data cited by a top official in Seoul.

Earlier reports claimed that Pyongyang had at least eight bombs. At the peak of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the North boasted of having developed an advanced hydrogen bomb and intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the entire US mainland.

The Friday statement stopped just short of threatening to walk away from lingering talks with the US, but nonetheless said the “improvement of relations and sanctions is incompatible.” The issue of economic sanctions came to light again this Friday as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered his take on the upcoming actions towards Pyongyang.

Speaking on Fox News, Pompeo said that “we will keep the economic pressure in place until such time as Chairman Kim fulfills the commitment he made to President Trump back in June in Singapore.” 

imultaneously, he shed some light on the upcoming meeting with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol next week, saying it will mostly revolve around a second Trump and Kim Jong-un.

“The US thinks that its oft-repeated ‘sanctions and pressure’ leads to ‘denuclearization.’ We cannot help laughing at such a foolish idea,” the North Korean statement offered.

Restrictions against the North have added fuel to the simmering rift between Washington and Seoul. South Korea has offered financial and economic aid to the North once sanctions are lifted. President Moon Jae-in, for his part, promised that Seoul will help Pyongyang rebuild roads and railways as a first step to mend ties between the neighbors.

Moreover, South Korea has considered lifting its own economic sanctions designed to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons. In early October, the South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha suggested Seoul was willing to lift the restrictions as a goodwill gesture towards the North.

South Korean plans have been given a sharp rebuke from the US. “They won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval,” Trump commented on Kang’s remarks. Officials in Washington have once again vowed to maintain a “maximum pressure” effort until the North denuclearizes. 

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