North Korean state media on Thursday said the signing of a formal peace agreement must come before Pyongyang denuclearizes, as a public war of words between the U.S. and DPRK continues amid stalled negotiations.
Crediting an unnamed American website for pointing out the order of the points of the Singapore agreement signed by U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June, an article in ruling party organ the Rodong Sinmun said “there is a correct order to everything.”
“In assessing the U.S. official stance of having North Korea denuclearize first before turning the ceasefire agreement into a peace agreement, one American website pointed out that this is the reverse” of what was agreed to in Singapore, it said.
According to the text of the agreement, the first two points deal with establishing new relations and building “a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” with the third point saying “the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
There is no mention of an end-of-war agreement or peace treaty in the June joint statement.
The article also referenced an unnamed MIT professor writing for the National Interest publication, agreeing with their opinion that “forming a peace system between the two sides is the first step” in the process.
At the same time, absent from the article were any calls for simultaneous actions or concessions by both sides, instead suggesting the the two must negotiate an end-of-war agreement first.
But while the Rodong article emphasized the North Korean stance that a formal end to the Korean War must come before denuclearization, another outlet, outer-track website Arirang Meari on Thursday insisted Washington drop calls for the strengthening of sanctions as an additional preliminary requirement.
An article posted to the website argued the U.S. has done “absolutely nothing” to help improve relations so far while listing alleged concessions provided by North Korea this year.
It listed the explosion of tunnel entrances at Punggye-ri and the repatriation of American war remains as substantive steps it has taken, but said the U.S. “has only tried to improve relations through words.”
“The U.S. has done absolutely nothing, instead moving to strengthen sanctions,” the article said.
But the editorial did not explicitly call for sanctions to be lifted, instead taking issue primarily with Washington’s claims that sanctions are not on the negotiating table until steps towards denuclearization are taken.
“Calling for strengthening sanctions only promotes distrust and hostility instead of building trust,” the author wrote, adding that “the more the U.S. swings at us, the more opportunities it will lose to improve relations.”
“If the U.S. continues to tighten sanctions, instead of taking steps to build trust between the two sides, including the withdrawal of the sanctions, the bilateral relationship will not move forward.”
Thursday’s renewed demands to shift the current direction of talks come during a week where U.S. officials have repeatedly pointed to the Singapore agreement as proof of Kim Jong Un’s promise to make denuclearization a priority.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that he expects Kim to “deliver on the commitments he’s made” on denuclearization, while National Security Advisor John Bolton said the DPRK leader should “follow through on what he committed to [President Trump] at Singapore.”
Monday then saw the Rodong criticize the U.S. for engaging in “pressure diplomacy” on sanctions and taking “dirty” and “disrespectful” actions to block certain items from being shipped to the North.
North Korean outlets on Wednesday, too, said Washington was stalling the progress of inter-Korean projects and trying to “choke off the DPRK.”
The back and forth continued later in the day, with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the U.S. was patient but not willing to wait too long to see results, adding that “we have to see denuclearisation and we’re not going to stop until we get it.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Kevin Lim, Straits Times
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