North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Thursday warned that the country may reconsider recent measures taken to build trust with the United States, criticizing several EU countries for their joint condemnation this week of its most recent missile test.
In a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a foreign ministry spokesperson also accused the European countries of conducting a “stern provocation” against the DPRK by only condemning North Korea despite the U.S.’s recent test of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The comments come in response to a meeting of EU member states at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Tuesday, after which diplomats from Germany, Britain, France, Poland, Estonia, and Belgium condemned the DPRK’s test-launch last week of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
That statement — notably not signed by the U.S. — urged North Korea to cease its “provocative actions” and stressed that international sanctions against the country “must remain in place and be fully and strictly enforced.”
North Korea’s ambassador to the UN in the run-up to that meeting said the U.S. was likely “behind the impure moves” of the EU nations, warning that such talks would strengthen “our desire to defend our sovereignty.”
Thursday’s remarks from the foreign ministry reiterated those claims, slamming the U.S. for engaging in recent working-level talks while seeking to build pressure on the DPRK.
“The U.S., which begs for working-level negotiations with the DPRK and says… that the results of the talks were positive even though they broke off the negotiations empty-handed, has turned around and encouraged its followers to issue a statement condemning us,” it said.
“As the international community has acknowledged, the U.S. test of intercontinental ballistic missiles was clearly aimed at pressuring us,” it continued, warning, notably, that the DPRK “can counteract it at the same level… but are refraining from doing so.”
In response, Pyongyang warned, the country may “reconsider the crucial steps we have taken to build trust with the U.S.” — likely a reference to last year’s self-declared moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear testing.
“There is a limit to our patience and there is no law that what we have been restraining from will last indefinitely,” the spokesperson said.
Thursday’s statement comes amid renewed uncertainty over the future of U.S.-North Korea diplomacy, following Saturday’s failed working-level talks in Stockholm, Sweden.
Those negotiations — which many observers expected would see the two sides begin to make progress towards a nuclear deal — instead ended in acrimony, with the DPRK side accusing the U.S. of coming to the talks “empty-handed.”
And the while U.S. State Department later insisted that the talks had been productive, a foreign ministry statement on Sunday stressed that the “fate of U.S.-DPRK talks depends on the attitude of the U.S. given that we have clearly proposed to the U.S. side a solution to the problem.”
Last week’s missile launch, too, has dramatically raised the stakes, representing the longest-range test by the DPRK since November 2017.
“When the DPRK envoy to the UN blamed the U.S. for the EU nations’ closed-door meeting a few days ago, it seemed that Pyongyang was laying the groundwork for stepping up criticism of the U.S. and possibly even using it as a pretext for escalating its own military action,” Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with NK News‘s sister site NK Pro, said.
“Today’s pronouncement seems to corroborate that,” she continued. “It is worth noting that the pronouncement raises the recent U.S. launch of Minuteman 3 and explicitly calls it as targeting North Korea. Pyongyang seems to be laying the groundwork for justifying its own escalated military action in the future.”
Edited by James Fretwell
Featured image: KCNA