North Korea vow-ed on Monday that tough new United Nations sanctions would not stop it from developing its nuclear arsenal, as it rejected talks and angrily warned the United States of retaliation.
The message of defiance was the first major response to the US-drafted sanctions, which the UN Security Council unanimously approved over the weekend and which could cost North Korea $1 billion a year.
The North’s sole major ally China, accused by the United States of doing too little to rein in Pyongyang, piled on the diplomatic pressure by vowing to fully implement the new sanctions.
“We will under no circumstances put the nukes and ballistics rockets on (the) negotiating table,” North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said in a statement released in Manila where he was attending a regional security forum.
“Neither shall we flinch even an inch from the road to bolstering up the nuclear forces chosen by ourselves unless the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the US against the DPRK (North Korea) are fundamentally eliminated.”
In an earlier statement released via its official KCNA news agency, North Korea threatened to make the United States “pay the price for its crime… thousands of times” for drafting the sanctions.
Ri was among two dozen ministers attending the security forum, including Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and top diplomats from other Asia-Pacific nations.
For his part, Tillerson ruled out a quick return to dialogue with North Korea, saying Washington would only consider talks if Pyongyang halted its ballistic missile programme.
“The best signal that North Korea could send that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” Tillerson told reporters.
Tillerson did hold out the prospect of US envoys at some point sitting down with Pyongyang, but he refused to say how long the North might have to refrain from testing more long-range missiles beforehand.
“I’m not going to give someone a specific number of days or weeks. This is really about the spirit of these talks,” he said.
The sanctions were in response to the North’s two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month, after which Kim boasted that he could now strike any part of the United States.
Tillerson, who held separate talks in Manila with Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, also sought to emphasise a united stance against the North.
“It’s quite clear in terms of there being no daylight between the international community as to the expectation that North Korea will take steps to achieve all of my objectives, which is a denuclearised Korean peninsula,” he said.