(News Focus) N.K. reconfirms my-way approach, clouding outlooks for headway in nuke impasse
By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Sept. 24 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's top diplomat has reaffirmed Pyongyang's "my-way" stance in its nuclear development efforts during his latest speech at the United Nations, blaming what he calls the United States' hostile attitude again for causing the current stalemate, experts said Saturday.
The North also made clear that it will not give in to growing international pressure to dissuade it from pushing forward with its nuclear ambitions, further clouding outlooks for any imminent breakthrough, they predicted.
In his speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Friday (local time), North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho vowed to bolster the country's nuclear armed forces to cope with "increased war threats from the United States," claiming the country's fifth nuclear test was part of such an efforts.
"The successful nuclear warhead explosion test that we have conducted recently is part of practical countermeasures to the rackets of threats and sanctions of the hostile forces, including the United States," Ri said.
"The DPRK (North Korea) will continue to take measures to strengthen its national nuclear armed forces in both quantity and quality in order to defend the dignity and the right to existence and safeguard the genuine peace vis-a-vis increased war threats of the U.S.," he said.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho delivers a speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Sept. 23, 2016. (AP-Yonhap)
His speech seems in line with what he said at a regional security forum held in Laos in July, but it still drew renewed attention as it came just weeks after the North conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear warhead detonation test on Sept. 9.
The nuclear provocation marked the second of its kind this year after the nuclear test carried out in January, which led the UNSC to adopt the toughest-ever resolution to date that aimed to cut off the flow of money to the North that can be used for its development of weapons of mass destruction.
Demand has been growing for much tougher punitive measures against the North which shows no signs of giving up its nuclear development program. South Korea is ramping its own diplomatic drive to drum up global support, while the U.S., Japan and China are expressing support for tougher action.
In the face of the growing call for action, tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been reaching one of the highest points as the North is increasing its saber-rattling and the South and its main ally, the United States, show no intention of backing off.
Following the U.S. sending two armed B-1B bombers over the Korean Peninsula in an apparent show of force, the North threatened on Thursday that its nuclear warheads will turn Seoul into ashes. In response, the Seoul government retorted the next day that any provocation will be met with "stern and strong" retaliation.
Ri reiterated the belligerent rhetoric during his speech, making a threat squarely zeroed in on the United States.
"Only a couple of days ago, the United States again threatened the DPRK by flying the B-1B strategic bomber over the military demarcation line on the Korean Peninsula and landing in South Korea," he said. "The United States will have to face tremendous consequences beyond imagination."
This year's U.N. General Assembly was marked once again by clear differences on how to handle the current impasse by North and South Korea, which remain technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice treaty.
A day before Ri's speech, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se took the podium to deliver his own speech, much of which was spent on criticism of the North's bellicose attitude and defiant pursuit of nuclear and missile programs.
Yun also questioned the qualification of the North as a U.N. member, saying that it has repeatedly violated the U.N. Charter and obligations it vowed to observe when joining the world body along with the South in 1991. He called the North a "serial offender."
"It is crystal clear that North Korea, as a serial offender, has manifestly failed to uphold its pledge to abide by the obligations in the U.N. Charter, particularly to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council," Yun said.
"Therefore, I believe that it is high time to seriously consider whether North Korea is qualified to be a peace-loving U.N. member, as many countries are already questioning," he added.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, summed up the latest U.N. General Assembly as yet another chance to confirm the North's long-held stance on its nuclear program and criticism that the United States is at the greatest fault.
He expected no immediate breakthrough at least until a new president takes office in the United States, worrying that the North will likely engage in provocative actions for the time being.
"The North could take provocative action either on Oct. 10 (the anniversary of the founding of the ruling Worker's Party of Korea) or in November in time for the presidential election in the United States," he said.
"After such a show of force, the North could come forward with somewhat reconciliatory gestures to deal with a new president in Washington no matter who is to be elected," he noted. "Until that time at least, chances seem to be low for a thaw in the current stalemate."