North Korea’s foreign minister has warned of increasing "mistrust" between Pyongyang and Washington DC, announcing that his country would not take the first steps towards denuclearisation without further guarantees from the Trump administration.
Ri Yong-ho, addressing the United Nations general assembly on Saturday, said North Korea was growing frustrated at the slow progress since the June summit between Donald Trump, the US president, and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader.
Mr Kim has said he would permanently dismantle North Korea’s main nuclear complex, but only if the United States takes unspecified corresponding measures, and he promised to accept international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad.
But Mr Ri said the North has not seen "see any corresponding response" from Washington – only an increasing emphasis on sanctions.
"The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe dream of the people who are ignorant of us," he said, adding that the continued sanctions are "deepening our mistrust" and deadlocking the current diplomacy.
"Without any trust in the US, there will be no confidence in our national security.
"Under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first."
Yet Mr Ri’s comments were markedly different in tone from previous years, when the North lashed out after Mr Trump threatened to "totally destroy" the country.
His speech was clearly meant to push a wary United States to agree to a declaration formally ending the Korean War, which ended with a ceasefire, not a peace treaty.
Washington is wary of endorsing such a declaration, which could lead to a formal peace treaty.
Mr Ri said that fully implementing the Singapore agreements – which were left vague – would mean the "current trend toward detente will turn into durable peace and the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
"The Korean Peninsula, the hottest spot in the globe, will become the cradle of peace and prosperity."