North Korea declared Thursday that inter-Korean relations had “reached a point of no return” following the opening of a U.N. office in Seoul to monitor the human rights situation under the reclusive regime.
“The South must be aware that it has now passed the point of words,” North Korea’s Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement, adding that “only the ultimate standoff” remains, indicating a possible provocation.
The remarks followed a recent barrage of threats from Pyongyang.
Marking the 65th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, the North’s state media blasted South Korea and its ally U.S. for their annual military exercises and what it called an “unprecedented scheme” to isolate and squeeze the regime.
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (Yonhap)
The powerful National Defense Commission accused Washington of having devised and set in motion a “second Korean War” centering on surgical strikes against its key strategic assets.
“We declare to the world that the fight by our military and people is entering a new, higher phase against the U.S.’ anti-North Korea, hostile policy and resulting unprecedented scheme to isolate and pressure us,” the commission said in a statement.
Meanwhile, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se called on North Korea to take a page out of Iran’s diplomacy book to abandon its nuclear ambitions and return to the negotiating table.
Citing its underground detonations in 2006, 2009 and 2013, he noted that the North was the only country to have carried out atomic tests in the 21st century.
“I truly hope they will soon wake up and open their eyes to reality: Nuclear weapons bring nothing but isolation and sanctions,” the top diplomat said in an opening speech to a meeting of the group of eminent persons for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in Seoul.
“The international community has a cast-iron commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, and will not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. Pyongyang would do well to learn from the Iranian case and return to the dialogue table.”
Yun urged the communist state to join the CTBT that forbids nuclear tests, saying its weapons program posed “the most serious challenge” to the global nonproliferation regime.
The fate of the 1996 pact hangs in the balance because eight countries, including the U.S., China and Iran, have not signed or ratified it and will unlikely do so in the near future. Of the holdouts, North Korea, India, Pakistan and Israel are not members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Currently, 183 countries have signed the document and 164 of them have ratified it, including Seoul.
Iran and world powers are working to conclude an accord by the end of the month, putting a 15-year ban on Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for a major lifting of sanctions that have crippled the economy, which is highly dependent on crude exports.
Pyongyang, in contrast, refuses to restart denuclearization dialogue, including the stalled six-nation forum, claiming that with its nuclear arsenal, the agenda should now be shifted to nonproliferation.
“If North Korea signs and ratifies the CTBT, it would send a strong signal in the path towards denuclearization,” Yun said.
“It is crucial to prioritize the entry into force of the CTBT. But this is easier said than done. Breaking nearly two decades of inertia and intransigence will require out-of-the-box thinking.”
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org