WASHINGTON -- North Korea's foreign minister said Saturday that his country won't dismantle its nuclear weapons program first without seeing corresponding measures from the United States.
Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Ri Yong-ho said his country's commitment to denuclearization is firm but that it needs to see trust-building measures from the US.
"Without any trust in the US, there will be no confidence in our national security, and under such circumstances, there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first," the minister said.
The North has taken "goodwill measures" by stopping its ballistic missile tests and dismantling a nuclear test site, among other things, Ri said. The US, on the other hand, has increased sanctions on the North and rejected Pyongyang's calls for a declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, he claimed.
The foreign minister's address comes as Washington and Pyongyang are re-engaging in talks to implement a denuclearization agreement reached between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at their historic Singapore summit in June.
Kim committed to work toward "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for security guarantees from the US.
"The DPRK government's commitment to thorough implementation of the DPRK-US joint statement is unwavering," Ri said, referring to the North by its formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"It is our position that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula should also be realized along with building a peace regime under the principle of simultaneous actions, step by step, starting with what we can do and giving priority to trust-building," he added.
Planning has been underway for a second summit between Trump and Kim. On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Ri in New York and accepted the North Korean leader's invitation to visit Pyongyang, the State Department said.
Pompeo will make his fourth trip to the North Korean capital next month. An earlier visit in August was called off by Trump at the last minute over what he called a lack of a progress toward denuclearization.
"The reason behind the recent deadlock is because the US relies on coercive methods, which are lethal to trust-building," Ri said in his speech. "The DPRK government's commitment to denuclearization is solid and firm. However, it is only possible if the US secures our sufficient trust towards the US."
Instead of addressing the North's concerns about the absence of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, Ri said, the US has insisted that denuclearization come first and increased pressure through sanctions.
"The perception that sanctions can bring us to our knees is a pipe dream of the people who are ignorant about us. But the problem is that the continued sanctions are deepening our mistrust," he said.
Chairing a meeting of the UN Security Council just days earlier, Pompeo urged the international community to fully implement all sanctions on the North.
"We must not forget what's brought us this far: the historic international pressure campaign that this council has made possible through the sanctions that it imposed," Pompeo said. "Until the final denuclearization of the DPRK is achieved and fully verified, it is our solemn collective responsibility to fully implement all UN Security Council resolutions pertaining to North Korea."
Last year, the Security Council unanimously adopted multiple sanctions resolutions in response to North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile tests to choke off sources of revenue for the regime.
Pompeo said some of those sanctions have been violated, including through ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum to North Korea and continued hiring of North Korean laborers overseas.
But he also sounded a hopeful note on the diplomatic negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.
"Past diplomatic attempts to halt North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile development were unsuccessful," Pompeo said. "But now we're at the dawn of a new day ... We are well into a diplomatic process, and we hope -- indeed, we want -- to see this through to a successful end."
He added: "President Trump has made abundantly clear that if Chairman Kim follows through on his commitments, a much brighter future lies ahead for North Korea and its people, and the United States will be at the forefront of facilitating that bright future."
In its Sunday edition, the Rodong Sinmun, the organ of Pyongyang's ruling Workers' Party of Korea, also called for easing of sanctions on the country.
The paper urged the US to "read the trend correctly and make the right choices," instead of ratcheting up sanctions on North Korea while trying to engage the country in talks.
It added that the US is only intent on keeping sanctions in place without holding up its end of the bargain amid a mood of detente on the Korean Peninsula.
"The US relies on sanctions as the cure-all solution to problems, and it continues to create more complicated issues," the editorial said. "What the US must clearly understand is that sanctions pressure will not work on us."(Yonhap)