SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea pressed the United States to accept its demand for direct talks on the communist regime’s nuclear program, warning today that Pyongyang “will go our own way” unless Washington agrees.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry did not elaborate in the statement carried by state media, which appeared to be a threat to enlarge its nuclear arsenal.
The statement came as North Korea’s No. 2 nuclear negotiator, Ri Gun, wrapped up a rare trip to the U.S., where he met with the chief American nuclear negotiator, Sung Kim, amid media speculation the two discussed bilateral negotiations.
North Korea has demanded direct talks with Washington since conducting a series of nuclear and missile tests and quitting six-party nuclear negotiations involving China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the U.S. earlier this year.
“As the (North) was magnanimous enough to clarify the stand that it is possible to hold multilateral talks including the six-party talks depending on the talks with the U.S., now is the U.S. turn,” North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said, according to Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency.
“If the U.S. is not ready to sit at a negotiating table with the (North), it will go its own way,” the ministry said.
North Korea agreed in 2007 to disable its nuclear facilities – as a step toward its ultimate dismantlement – in exchange for energy aid and political concessions. Pyongyang halted the process and later abandoned the pact after receiving most of the promised energy aid and concessions.
The standoff led to Pyongyang conducting its second nuclear test and banned missile tests earlier this year.
However, North Korea said today that “meaningful progress” on a nuclear-free Korean peninsula is possible “if the hostile relations between the (North) and the U.S. are settled and confidence is built between them.”
Meanwhile, the regime warned it is enlarging its nuclear stockpile, saying it is “weaponizing” plutonium and has succeeded in enriching uranium, a second way of building atomic bombs.
North Korea has long called for direct talks with the U.S. to resolve the nuclear standoff, and maintains it is compelled to develop atomic bombs to cope with what it calls “U.S. nuclear threats.”
Officials in Washington say no decision has been made on whether to hold direct talks.