Correction at 1410 EST: An earlier version of this article did not include the specific quote pertaining to what North Korea offered the U.S. for sanctions relief. This has been amended.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on Friday disputed Washington’s account that North Korea had asked for all sanctions to be removed in order for negotiations to progress.
Speaking at a surprise, late press conference in Hanoi given after midnight local time, the DPRK foreign minister said Pyongyang had asked for “partial” sanctions relief.
“What we proposed was not the removal of all sanctions but their partial removal,” Ri told assembled reporters.
“In detail, we proposed the United States lift five sanctions resolutions – which were adopted between 2016 and 2017 and impede the civilian economy and the livelihood of our people – among 11 UN sanctions resolutions all together.”
In exchange for the sanctions relief, North Korea’s foreign minister said that Pyongyang would “permanently and completely dismantle all of the nuclear material production facilities in the Yongbyon area including plutonium and uranium in the presence of U.S. experts and a joint work of technicians from both countries.”
North Korea, he said, had also expressed the “intention to make the commitment on the permanent halt of nuclear testing and long-range rocket launch testing in the format of the document to lessen the concern of the United States.”
Earlier in the day, U.S. President Donald Trump also gave a press conference where he told journalists that sanctions had been the sticking point for the negotiations despite a potential offer for denuclearization developments at Yongbyon.
“He wants the sanctions for that, and as you know there’s plenty left after that, and I just felt it wasn’t good,” he explained.
“We had to have more than that,” he continued, adding the U.S. had discovered many more facilities that would also need to be dismantled.
Ri added that Washington had requested an additional step beyond the dismantlement of North Korea’s Yongbyon facility and so was not ready to accept Pyongyang’s proposal.
The North Korean foreign minister also sounded more pessimistic on the chance of further talks that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier in the day.
“It will be difficult to say whether there might be a better agreement than the one based on our proposal at the current stage,” Ri said.
“Such first stage of the process is inevitable in the path toward the complete denuclearization and we must undergo the process of implementing the best proposal set forth by us. Our principled stand will remain invariable and our proposal will never be changed even though the United States proposes negotiations again in the future.”
While there are numerous UN resolutions issued under the 1718 Committee aimed at limiting North Korea’s abilities to fund and develop nuclear weapons dating back 2006, many of the more stringent measures were introduced in the resolutions issued throughout 2016 and 2017.
Rolling back the most recent resolutions would likely have a disproportionate effect on the sanctions regime, as the earlier documents were much narrower in scope and mainly targeted companies, practices and techniques involved in the North’s weapon smuggling or nuclear procurement programs.
The more stringent sets of sanctions were applied in the hope of limiting North Korea’s ability to generate funds from mineral and raw material exports, though are now relatively broad and prevent the DPRK from purchasing machinery, and equipment.
Dagyum Ji contributed translation
Featured image: Vietnam News Agency