US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that he is “stronger and tougher” on North Korea than others, while Pyongyang’s top diplomat claimed that the regime was nearing a “balance of power” with the US.
Speaking to reporters following his meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House, Trump said that he would have the US nuclear arsenal in “tip-top shape” and denied reports that he wanted to secure 10 times more nuclear warheads.
“I want modernization and total rehabilitation,” Trump said, calling an increase in the stockpile “totally unnecessary.”
A US media outlet had reported that Trump had suggested increasing the country’s nuclear arsenal tenfold to numbers seen in the 1960s. At the time, the US’ nuclear arsenal amounted to over 30,000 nuclear weapons. The number has been gradually reduced to about 4,000.
Trump claimed that the related reports were false, accusing the media of citing nonexistent sources. Trump’s denial was backed by Secretary of Defense James Mattis who said the reports were false, and “irresponsible.”
Regarding the views he and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have on North Korea, Trump said that they may have some differences and that he has “a little bit different attitude on North Korea than other people might have.”
“I think perhaps I feel stronger and tougher on that subject than other people,” Trump said, adding that he does however listen to the views of others.
“And ultimately, I will do what’s right for the United States and, really, what’s right for the world. Because that’s really a world problem; that’s beyond just the United States.”
Trump’s statements -- more measured than his previous comments regarding Pyongyang -- came on the same day that Russian media reported North Korea has no intention of negotiating its nuclear program.
In an interview with a Russian media outlet, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho rejected any possibility of negotiations concerning his country’s nuclear weapons program.
“We are nearing the end on the path to the ultimate goal of achieving balance of power with the US,” Ri was quoted as saying by the Russian news agency TASS.
“Unless the US policy of crushing North Korea is fundamentally removed, our nuclear weapons cannot become a subject of negotiation.”
According to the report, Ri reiterated Pyongyang’s position several times and said lifting sanctions on the regime is the only way to begin dialogue. Ri also claimed that the US was attempting to fracture North Korea-Russia relations, while rejecting plans for addressing the North Korean nuclear issue proposed by Moscow.
Although Ri’s claims of achieving a balance of power with the US is typical of Pyongyang’s exaggerated statements, the country’s missile and nuclear programs have developed rapidly under Kim Jong-un.
North Korea appears to be inches away from the “red line,” which President Moon Jae-in defined as being capable of developing nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Following its sixth nuclear test in September, Pyongyang claimed that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. In addition, Pyongyang’s missile tests have shown that its ICBM development program has made significant advancements, with the missile fired on Sept. 15 covering some 3,700 kilometers.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com