N Korea warns of returning to nuclear policy

SEOUL: North Korea has warned the United States it will “seriously” consider returning to a state policy aimed at building nuclear weapons if Washington does not end tough economic sanctions against the impoverished regime.
For years, the North had pursued a “byungjin” policy of simultaneously developing its nuclear capabilities alongside the economy.
In April, citing a “fresh climate of detente and peace” on the peninsula, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared the nuclear quest complete and said his country would focus on “socialist economic construction.”
But a statement issued by the North’s foreign ministry said Pyongyang could revert to its former policy if the US did not change its stance over sanctions.
“The word ‘byungjin’ may appear again and the change of the line could be seriously reconsidered,” said the statement carried by the official KCNA news agency late on Friday.
At a historic summit in Singapore in June, US President Donald Trump and Kim signed a vaguely-worded statement on denuclearisation.
But little progress has been made since then, with Washington pushing to maintain sanctions against the North until its “final, fully verified denuclearisation” and Pyongyang condemning US demands as “gangster-like.”
“The improvement of relations and sanctions are incompatible,” said the statement, released under the name of the director of the foreign ministry’s Institute for American Studies.
“What remains to be done is the US corresponding reply,” it added.
The statement is the latest sign of Pyongyang’s increasing frustration with Washington.
Last month, the North’s state media carried a near 1,700 words long commentary accusing the US of playing a “double game”, implicitly criticising Trump for his comments aimed at barring Seoul from lifting sanctions against Pyongyang.
Days after Pyongyang threatened to restart work on its nuclear programme, the United States and South Korea will begin small-scale military drills on Monday that were delayed during talks with North Korea.
The Korean Marine Exchange Programme was among the training drills that were indefinitely suspended in June after US President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore and promised to end joint, US-South Korea military exercises often criticised by the North.
A spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of Defence confirmed a round of training would begin near the southern city of Pohang, with no media access expected.
About 500 American and South Korean marines will participate in the manoeuvres, the Yonhap news agency reported.
In Washington last week, South Korea’s defence minister said Washington and Seoul would make a decision by December on major joint military exercises for 2019. — AFP/Reuters