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Warning to Pyongyang on a return to its nuclear policy

05 November 2018

North Korea has threatened to restart the development of its nuclear weapons program unless the United States lifts sanctions, underscoring one of the major potential stumbling blocks in Washington's diplomatic outreach with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In a statement issued late on Friday, the North's foreign ministry said Pyongyang could revert to its former policy if the United States did not change its stance over sanctions.

"We start with the ongoing diplomacy with North Korea".

Since the summits, however, North Korea has been insisting that sanctions should be lifted before any progress in nuclear talks can be made.

In an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity on Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he plans to talk next week with his North Korean counterpart, apparently referring to senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attended a joint performance by artists from China and his country in Pyongyang on Saturday, according to a new report.

The south Korean president Moon Jae-in is a long-time supporter of a dialogue with the North.

Earlier this year, athletes from both North and South Korea marched under a unified peninsula flag at the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

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In a statement, North Korea's foreign ministry said the "improvement of relations and sanctions is incompatible".

At the forefront of worldwide efforts in 2017 to put pressure on the north Korean economy, the United States refuse relief from sanctions as long as the North has not conducted a "denuclearization final and fully verified".

Last month, North Korea's state media carried a near 1,700-word-long commentary accusing the U.S. of playing a "double game", implicitly criticising Trump for his comments aimed at barring Seoul from lifting sanctions against Pyongyang.

However, the North has been playing hardball since the summit.

There continue to be doubts over whether Kim will ever give up his arsenal, which he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.

The United States, it added, was making a big mistake if it believed that North Korea would agree to unilateral disarmament as long as sanctions remain in place, and argued that negotiations should be "simultaneous and phased" and based on "reciprocity and equality".

Still, Friday's statement should not be taken as a sign that the promise will indeed be broken, experts said.

Warning to Pyongyang on a return to its nuclear policy