SEOUL – North Korea warned on Sunday that if the U.S. continues to escalate its sanctions and human rights campaign against the North, that approach could permanently shatter any chance of denuclearizing the country.
Washington is holding fast to its policy of exerting “maximum” economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, even though President Donald Trump has claimed progress in denuclearizing the North since his meeting with Kim Jong Un in June.
In the months after the Singapore summit, Washington has continued to crack down on companies, individuals and ships accused of engaging in such activities as money laundering, cyberattacks and ship-to-ship transfer of fuel on North Korea’s behalf.
On Sunday, North Korea voiced its growing frustration, as Washington persisted in its efforts to squeeze the country with additional sanctions. Last Monday, the Treasury Department blacklisted three top aides to Kim over serious rights abuses and censorship.
The North’s Foreign Ministry said that if senior State Department officials believed they could force North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons by increasing sanctions and their “human rights racket to an unprecedented level,” it would be the “greatest miscalculation.”
Instead, the statement added, “It will block the path to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula forever — a result desired by no one.” The statement, issued in the name of the North’s Institute for American Studies, was carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.
The warning came amid a prolonged stalemate in negotiations between North Korea and the U.S. over the terms of denuclearization. In his meeting with Trump in June, Kim committed to “work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” In return, Trump promised peace on the peninsula, as well as security guarantees for “new” relations with the North.
Trump claimed that the North Korean nuclear crisis had been “largely solved” with the summit. Since June, the North Koreans have refrained from criticizing Trump, whose impulsive and flamboyant negotiating style, analysts said, was favored by the isolated nation.
But the North has become increasingly angry at U.S. negotiators, as working-level talks have bogged down over who should do what first in putting the broadly worded Singapore agreement into action. On Sunday, the North Korean institute accused officials from the State Department and other U.S. agencies of trying to sabotage the summit deal between Kim and Trump.
Washington is demanding a full declaration of the North’s nuclear assets for future inspections, but the North insists that the United States first lift sanctions before it takes any steps toward denuclearizing.