According to the Yonhap News Agency, North Korea is ready to halt nuclear tests if the United States suspends military exercises with South Korea, Pyongyang’s Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong (who has currrently health problems) was quoted as saying in a rare interview Saturday.
Ri made the remark in an interview with the Associated Press while on a visit to New York for U.N. meetings, renewing the North’s long-running claims that the country was compelled to develop nuclear weapons to cope with what it calls U.S. nuclear threats and hostile policy toward Pyongyang.
“Stop the nuclear war exercises in the Korean Peninsula, then we should also cease our nuclear tests,” Ri said, according to AP.
The communist nation made the same proposal in the past, but the U.S. has rejected it as an “implicit threat,” stressing that the North is banned from nuclear tests under U.N. resolutions and that joint military exercises with South Korea are purely defensive.
The latest offer came amid growing concern that the North could carry out yet another nuclear test soon, just a few months after its fourth nuclear blast in January, in the run-up to next month’s Workers’ Party Congress.
Pyongyang has long claimed that annual military drills between South Korea and the U.S. are a rehearsal for invading the North, despite repeated assurances from Washington and Seoul that the maneuvers are defensive in nature.
Ri also told AP that “new opportunities” could come for the two countries if the exercises are suspended, but otherwise, the situation will “lead to very catastrophic results, not only for the two countries but for the whole entire world as well.”
Ri also said that sanctions against the North won’t work.
“If they believe they can actually frustrate us with sanctions, they are totally mistaken,” he was quoted as saying.
Ri said that it’s good to see Cuba and Iran to have improved relations with the U.S., but such cases are totally different from relations between Washington and Pyongyang.