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North Korea, U.S. at discord over nuclear programme

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North Korea and the United States on Saturday sparred over an agreement reached at a landmark summit in June for the Asian country to end its nuclear program, as Washington called for maintaining sanctions pressure against Pyongyang, which in turn said it was alarmed by U.S. intentions.

North Korea however accused the United States of undermining the process of denuclearisation and for showing “alarming” impatience on the issue, after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed the need to maintain full sanctions pressure on Pyongyang.

At the ASEAN Regional Forum  in Singapore, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said on Saturday that his country stood “firm in its determination and commitment” to implement the June deal between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

But he also criticised the US for undermining confidence in the process: “What is alarming, however, is the insistent moves manifested within the US to go back to the old, far from its leader’s intention.”

“As long as the US does not show in practice its strong will to remove our concerns, there will be no case whereby we will move forward first unilaterally,” Ri added.

The discord at a regional forum in Singapore was the latest reminder of the difficulties that have long impaired efforts to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, despite commitments made at an unprecedented summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the city state less than two months ago.

“The DPRK stands firm in its determination and commitment for implementing the DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement in a responsible and good-faith manner,” North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told the ASEAN Regional Forum, using his country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“What is alarming however is the insistent moves manifested within the U.S. to go back to the old, far from its leader’s intention,” he said.

Ri made the statement after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had left the Singapore conference center for Indonesia having pressed Southeast Asian nations to maintain sanctions on North Korea until it gives up a nuclear weapons program that now threatens the United States.

At the June 12 summit, Kim, who is seeking relief from tough sanctions, committed to work towards denuclearisation, but North Korea has offered no details on how it might go about this.

Pompeo suggested on Friday that continued work on weapons programs by North Korea was inconsistent with Kim’s commitment to denuclearize. On Saturday, he nevertheless said he was optimistic a North Korean denuclearisation could be achieved although it “would take some time.”

Ri said North Korea had made goodwill gestures, including a moratorium on nuclear tests and rocket launches and the dismantling of a nuclear test ground.

“However, the United States, instead of responding to these measures, is raising its voice louder for maintaining the sanctions against the DPRK and showing the attitude to retreat even from declaring the end of the war, a very basic and primary step for providing peace on the Korean peninsula,” he said.

On Saturday, Pompeo said Washington took very seriously any relaxation of U.N. sanctions, calling out Russia for possibly violating a U.N. resolution by issuing work visas to North Korean workers.

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