(3rd LD) Additional nuke test depends 'entirely' on Washington: N.K.'s top diplomat
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By Koh Byung-joon
VIENTIANE, July 26 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's top diplomat blamed the United States Tuesday for dashing hopes for denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, saying that whether or not there will be additional nuclear tests depends "entirely" on Washington's attitude.
In a hastily-arranged press meeting after attending a regional security gathering held in the Laotian capital, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho also demanded U.S. troops pull out of South Korea altogether.
"It is the U.S.' hostile policy that is making the current situations worse," Ri said. "The problem is that its hostile policy is getting severe and the prime example can be found in the increased military pressure and nuclear threats."
"Another can be found in its economic isolation policy aimed at restricting our economic development. Recently, this has come to the point where (the U.S) carried out the biggest hostile act by insulting our 'greatest dignity' by taking issue with the so-called human rights," he stressed.
He referred to the U.S.' move on July 7 to impose sanctions on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over human rights abuses in an unprecedented, highly symbolic measure underscoring Washington's determination to ramp up pressure on Pyongyang.
Mentioning Kim's earlier demand for the U.S. to roll back its hostile policy toward the North, replace the armistice treaty signed following the 1950-53 war with a peace treaty and withdraw all its weapons and troops from the peninsula, Ri said, "This is our one and only way to go" at a time when co-existence and all dialogue have been denied.
Ri is in Laos to attend the ASEAN Regional Forum, a rare international security consultation event attended by North Korea and all other member countries of the long-halted six-party talks. The multilateral talks set up to resolve the North's nuke issue were last held in late 2008.
The policymaker then said the U.S. is to blame for why the talks failed to make headway.
"The six-party talks started for the sake of denuclearization of the entire Korean Peninsula. Denuclearization itself has been taken and thrown out into the sky by the U.S.," he said.
His trip for this year's ARF comes against heightened tensions caused by the North's fourth nuclear test in January followed by repeated launches of ballistic missiles in the following months. Adding to that speculation has also been mounting concerns that the North might be preparing a fifth nuclear test soon.
Asked if the North is considering another nuclear test, he didn't offer a direct answer but pointed his finger at the U.S. again, saying, "Whether we conduct an additional nuclear test or not depends entirely on the U.S.' attitude."
With regard to the recent decision by Seoul and Washington to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery on the peninsula, Ri called it the "U.S.' key strategic asset," saying that this raises "serious concerns" that makes it necessary for the North to stay alert and militarily ready.
On the issue of suspended inter-Korean talks, he said that it is South Korea that has rejected dialogue.
"We have made various proposals aimed at resolving inter-Korean relations through conversation and negotiations but all of them have been rejected. All of them. We don't think at this point that the South is prepared to engage in talks."
Ri also said that North Korea is a "responsible" nuclear state and that it would not use its nuclear weapons unless provoked, repeating the country's previous stance.