North Korea is ready to give the United States a “severe lesson” if Washington takes military action against Pyongyang, pledging it will “under no circumstances” put its nuclear weapons and ballistic programmes on the negotiating table, the country’s foreign minister has said.
“We will under no circumstances put the nukes and ballistics rockets on [the] negotiating table,” Ri Yong-ho said in a statement released on Monday in the Philippine capital Manila, where he was attending a regional meeting of the Association of the South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“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.”
Ri said that the situation on the Korean Peninsula was becoming more extreme because of arbitrary actions by the US.
“We have no intention to use nuclear weapons against or threaten with nuclear weapons any other country except the US unless it joins military action of the US against North Korea,” he said.
The warning came two days after the UN Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions to punish North Korea, including a ban on coal and other exports worth over $1bn, for its Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) test-launches last month.
North Korea was under fire at the ASEAN forum in Manila, where US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Pyongyang should signal it was prepared to resume talks by stopping its missile tests.
“The best signal that North Korea could send that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” said Tillerson.
However, he said it was not a matter of stopping the launches by “a specific number of days or weeks”.
“This is really about the spirit of these talks,” he said. “And they can demonstrate that they are ready to sit in the spirit of finding their way forward in these talks by no longer conducting these missile tests.”
Tillerson discussed the need to ramp up international pressure on North Korea to force it to abandon its nuclear weapons programmes in meetings with Australia, Japan and South Korea.
Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono “condemned in the strongest terms North Korea’s unlawful pursuit of a nuclear weapons programme and unprecedented ballistic missile activity since last year”.
They called on the 10-nation ASEAN bloc “to maximise pressure on North Korea”.
In an earlier statement released via its official KCNA news agency, North Korea threatened to make the US “pay the price for its crime… thousands of times” for drafting the sanctions, which were supported by North Korea’s ally, China.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who also attended the meeting, warned North Korea that Beijing, which is Pyongyang’s biggest trading partner, would be resolute in implementing the sanctions.
“China will for sure implement that new resolution 100 percent, fully and strictly,” Wang told reporters, according to a translator.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who held a meeting with Ri, called for a de-escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Pyongyang also hit out at Beijing and Moscow, which has also offered North Korea diplomatic cover in the past.
On Sunday, North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri rejected Seoul’s offer of military talks saying it “lacked sincerity”, South Korean Yonhap news agency reported.