North Korean leader Kim Jong Un condemned a US offer of dialogue as a “facade”, state media reported Thursday, and accused the Joe Biden administration of continuing a hostile policy against his nuclear-armed country.
Talks between Pyongyang and Washington have been effectively at a standstill since the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim and then-president Donald Trump over sanctions relief and what the North would be willing to give up in return.
Under Biden, the US has repeatedly offered to meet North Korean representatives anywhere, at any time, without preconditions, while saying it will pursue denuclearisation.
But Kim condemned the declarations as “nothing more than a facade to mask their deception and hostile acts and an extension of hostile policy from past administrations”, the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported.
Under the new administration, “the US military threat and hostile policy against us have not changed at all but have become more cunning”, he said in a lengthy address to the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), the North’s one-party parliament.
North Korea has been largely biding its time in recent months as it assessed the Biden government and focussed on domestic issues.
It has been behind a rigid self-imposed blockade since early last year to protect itself from the coronavirus pandemic, with the economy suffering as a result and trade with key partner China dwindling to a trickle.
But Kim’s speech was the latest in a series of actions with international ramifications this month.
This week, it tested what it said was a hypersonic gliding missile, and earlier this month announced it had successfully fired a long-range cruise missile, after holding a scaled-down military parade.
The North’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes are banned under UN Security Council resolutions, and it is subject to multiple international sanctions as a result.
The US condemned this week’s launch, but as recently as Wednesday, its North Korea envoy Sung Kim reiterated the offer of dialogue.
“We are strongly committed to finding a diplomatic path to complete the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” he told reporters. “That hasn’t changed at all.
“We had made a number of approaches to the DPRK and proposed dialogues on wide ranges of topics, but we haven’t heard back and we hope to hear back soon.”
The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Thursday on North Korea, at the request of the US, France and the United Kingdom, diplomatic sources told AFP Wednesday.
North Korea has not shown any willingness to give up its arsenal, which it says it needs to defend itself against a US invasion.
In his SPA speech, Kim declared: “The most fundamental crisis tearing down the basic tenets of international peace and stability is the abuse of power and coercion by the US and its followers.”
Washington and Seoul are security allies, and the US stations around 28,500 troops in the South to protect it from its neighbour.
Pyongyang has since then repeatedly excoriated the South and its President Moon Jae-in, and blown up a liaison office on its side of the border that Seoul had built.
At the UN General Assembly this month, Moon reiterated his call for a formal declaration of the end of the Korean War, where hostilities ceased in 1953 with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty.
But Kim said the South “still follows the US,” and that “mutual respect must be guaranteed and unfair views and double standards attitude dropped” before an end-of-war declaration could be agreed.
Nonetheless, he expressed a willingness to restore North-South communication lines in early October.
Seoul is also spending billions on military development as both Koreas build up their weapons capabilities in what could become an arms race on the peninsula, with ramifications for neighbouring Japan, China and the wider region.
This month, the South successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) for the first time, making it one of a handful of nations with the advanced technology, and this week, it held a ceremony to launch its third submarine capable of carrying SLBMs.