China and Russia are backing a resolution to ease sanctions on the North to kick-start stalled denuclearisation talks.
North Korea has criticised the United States for taking issue with its human rights record, warning that Washington’s “verbal abuse” would only aggravate the already tense situation on the Korean Peninsula, state news agency KCNA reported.
The KCNA statement on Saturday, attributed to a foreign ministry spokesperson, warned that if the US tried to take issue with the North’s system of government by citing human rights problems, it would “pay dearly”.
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Wednesday condemned North Korea’s “long-standing and ongoing” violations of human rights in an annual resolution sponsored by dozens of countries including the US, that Pyongyang’s UN envoy rejected.
The North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement is its first since US special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, publicly urged Pyongyang on Monday to return to talks. There has been no direct response from North Korea to Biegun’s entreaty.
Tensions have been building between North Korea and the US in recent weeks, prompting China to call for restraint and compromise. Beijing is Pyongyang closest ally.
In recent weeks, North Korea has been taking provocative actions against the US, calling President Donald Trump and “erratic old man” while launching a series of missile tests.
The rhetoric and tests have stoked fears the two countries could return to the collision course they had been on before diplomatic initiatives got under way last year.
Pyongyang has also recently promised an ominous “Christmas gift” if the US does not come up with concessions by the end of the year.
North Korea has been demanding the US make concessions to break the deadlock in their nuclear negotiations.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has held three meetings with Trump since June 2018 but little progress has been made in efforts towards denuclearisation since then.
Washington has opposed any removal of sanctions against Pyongyang until it agrees to denuclearise.
The US has veto power in the 15-member Security Council. It is unclear when or if the draft resolution will be put to a vote.