UPDATE — 5:51 p.m. EDT: Russian news agency RIA reported Friday North Korea will not engage in diplomatic talks with the U.S. over its nuclear weapons program, quoting a top diplomat who was speaking from Moscow.
“This is a matter of life and death for us. The current situation deepens our understanding that we need nuclear weapons to repel a potential attack,” said Choe Son-hui, who heads the North Korean foreign ministry’s North American division.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated a solution proposed along with China that calls for Pyongyang to draw down its weapons tests in exchange for a suspension of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
Amid soaring tension on the Korean peninsula, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the UN told the world body’s disarmament commission the tension between Washington and Pyongyang has reached a rubicon and nuclear war may “break out at any moment.”
Describing North Korea as a “responsible nuclear state,” North Korean envoy Kim In Ryong said:
“The entire U.S. mainland is within our firing range and if the U.S. dares to invade our sacred territory even an inch it will not escape our severe punishment in any part of the globe.”
Mr. Kim’s remarks were delivered as joint U.S.-South Korea naval exercises were underway.
Kim continued to defend North Korea’s nuclear stockpile, saying it is “precious strategic asset not to be reversed of bartered with for anything.” Kim followed-up, saying Pyongyang is the only nation on the earth subject to U.S. nuclear threats and blasted the U.S. for developing plans aimed at eliminating the North Korean leadership.
Kim, however, did offer words of assurance: In the attempt to clarify his country’s aims, Kim guaranteed nations which do involve itself with U.S. military action against the North would not be targeted by Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal.
Hours after Kim’s comments, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan, who was visiting Tokyo, emphasized the U.S. is committed to a diplomatic solution and remains open to direct talks with the regime.
“Eventually, we don’t rule out the possibility of course of direct talks. Our focus is on diplomacy to solve this problem that is presented by the DPRK. We must, however, with our allies, Japan and South Korea and elsewhere, be prepared for the worst, should diplomacy fail,” he remarked.
In lighter North Korean news, NBC News correspondent Kier Simmons reported Thursday from the South Korean border that Pyongyang officials watch MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on a daily basis for reports about their country.
[The Business Times] [Reuters via Firstpost] [The Hill] [Image courtesy David Parkins/The Economist]