North Korea has said it will retain its nuclear knowledge in comments likely to strain an increasingly tense relationship between Pyongyang and Washington.
Two months after agreeing to reset relations at a historic summit in Singapore, ties between the two nations appear to have hit a roadblock on the issue of denuclearisation, with Pyongyang criticising Washington for its refusal to ease sanctions.
“Whereas we already took such practical denuclearisation steps as discontinuing nuclear test and ICBM test fire, followed by dismantling the nuclear test ground . . . the US insisted on its unilateral demand of ‘ denuclearisation first’,” the North Korean foreign ministry said in a statement.
“We hoped that these goodwill measures would contribute to breaking down the high barrier of mistrust. However, the US responded to our expectation by inciting international sanctions and pressure.”
The statement also criticised the US’s “servile mouthpieces and intelligence institutions”, claiming they had fabricated recent reports suggesting the North had continued to develop its contentious nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programmes.
Earlier in the week, John Bolton, the US national security adviser, accused the Kim Jong Un regime of not taking the steps necessary for denuclearisation.
“Although North Korea has agreed on disarmament to deliver on its commitments in negotiations with [the] US, we will preserve our nuclear science as we know that the Americans will not abandon their hostility toward us,” the top diplomat was quoted as saying by Iran’s Mehr news agency.
The comments were likely to deal a blow to US President Donald Trump, who shortly after the Singapore summit said North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat.
The US leader has in recent weeks remained optimistic that Mr Kim would adhere to promises to abandon his arsenal of nuclear weapons, despite mounting evidence the regime was doing the opposite.
“We have a good relationship with North Korea. So, we’ll see how it works,” Mr Trump said this week.
South Korea, meanwhile, has increased its efforts to maintain diplomatic momentum, underlining Seoul’s role as a bridge between Pyongyang and Washington.
On Monday, the two Koreas will hold high-level talks aimed at firming details for another inter-Korean summit in the coming months.
Under South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who favours engagement with the North, Seoul has pushed ahead with a series of cross-border projects that it hopes will serve as a foundation for cooler diplomacy in the region.
For its part, Pyongyang has remained capricious. On Thursday night, it pulled out of a joint field survey for cross-border roads that was due on Friday. It did not give a reason why.