SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) — North Korea said yesterday it won’t consider a recent United States (US) decision to postpone a joint military exercise with South Korea a major concession that can bring it back to nuclear talks.
Senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol said the US must completely scrap that military drill and abandon its hostility against his country if it wants to see the resumption of the nuclear negotiations.
Kim’s comments were the first direct response to an announcement last Sunday by US Defence Secretary Mark Esper and his South Korean counterpart that the allies have indefinitely postponed the annual Vigilant Ace training in an “act of goodwill” toward North Korea.
The moves were regarded as an effort to convince North Korea to revive the nuclear talks that largely have stalled since the February collapse of a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“The US tries to make a good impression as if it contributes to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, describing the suspension (of the aerial drill) as ‘consideration for and concession’ to someone,” Kim Yong Chol said in a statement carried by state media. “But we demand that the US quit the drill or stop it once and for all.”
North Korea wants the US to lift international sanctions on it, provide security guarantees and make other concessions in return for abandoning its advancing nuclear arsenal.
The February summit in Vietnam, the second such meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un, fell apart after Trump rejected Kim’s demand for sweeping sanctions relief in exchange of dismantling his main complex to produce nuclear ingredients, a limited disarmament step.