North Korea announced on Thursday it will never unilaterally get rid of its illegal nuclear weapons program unless the United States removes its own “nuclear threat” from the Korean peninsula.
In a statement by the Korean Central News Agency, the regime said that the U.S. must remove “all sources of nuclear threat” from the region, despite the fact that the country does not have any nuclear weapons stationed in South Korea.
“The United States must now recognize the accurate meaning of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and especially, must study geography,” the agency said in a statement.
“When we talk about the Korean Peninsula, it includes the territory of our republic and also the entire region of (South Korea) where the United States has placed its invasive force, including nuclear weapons,” it continued. “When we talk about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it means the removal of all sources of nuclear threat, not only from the South and North but also from areas neighboring the Korean Peninsula.”
Although the U.S. does not currently control any nuclear weapons in the region, there are around 28,500 American troops stationed across the peninsula, who work alongside the South Korean military in preparation for an outbreak of conflict. While all sides signed an armistice agreement in 1953, no peace treaty ever ended the Korean War, meaning the United States is still technically at war with North Korea.
Under various agreements signed by the Clinton administration in 1994, the U.S. agreed to remove all tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea. Last year, when the possibility of conflict rose due to heightened tensions, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo indicated such weapons could be redeployed to the South if the North continued its aggressive threats and nuclear expansion, although the idea never came to pass.
“If we unilaterally give up our nuclear weapons without any security assurance despite being first on the U.S. list of targets for pre-emptive nuclear strikes, that wouldn’t be denuclearization — it would rather be a creation of a defenseless state where the balance in nuclear strategic strength is destroyed and the crisis of a nuclear war is brought forth,” the statement continued.
“The corresponding measures we have asked the United States to take aren’t difficult for the United States to commit to and carry out,” it added. “We are just asking the United States to put an end to its hostile policies (on North Korea) and remove the unjust sanctions, things it can do even without a snap of a finger.”
Such statements from the North provide a further indication of the lack of progress currently being made between the two sides, despite South Korean leader Moon Jae-in’s insistence that negotiations are on track to reach a comprehensive peace agreement.
This week, the North also warned the U.S. against “vicious” sanctions and rhetoric against the country, while concern remains deep in Washington that the regime is continuing to develop its nuclear arsenal and that the reported destruction of certain nuclear sites may be exaggerated.
President Donald Trump claimed this month he has developed a “good relationship” with communist dictator Kim Jong-un and expects to hold another second summit with him early next year.