North Korea thumps the US for thinking sanctions drove its denuclearization pledge, and says the suggestion could take peace talks ‘back to square one’

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un (L) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) shake hands over the military demarcation line upon meeting for the Inter-Korean Summit on April 27, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea.

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North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un (L) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) shake hands over the military demarcation line upon meeting for the Inter-Korean Summit on April 27, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea.
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Korea Summit Press Pool/Getty Images

  • North Korea has refuted claims that US-led sanctions are what encouraged it to propose denuclearization.
  • A spokesperson for the foreign ministry said such claims by the US is a “dangerous attempt to ruin” current dialogue and could take peace talks “back to square one.”
  • Sanctions against North Korea have attempted to cripple funding for the country’s nuclear weapons programme.
  • But Korea expert Robert Kelly believes it is the “arrogance of outsiders” to think sanctions created the current talks and that Pyongyang is reaching out now because it can finally protect itself with a missile capable of reaching the US.

North Korea has denied claims that US-led sanctions are what encouraged it to seek international peace talks, and experts say it was arrogance to ever think that was the case.

According to the state-run news agency KCNA, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday vehemently pushed back against talk that North Korea proposed denuclearization because of US-led sanctions crippling the country.

The spokesperson said the US is misleading public opinion over the sanctions and is a “dangerous attempt to ruin” international dialogue which risks taking the situation “back to square one.””The US is deliberately provoking the DPRK at the time when the situation on the Korean peninsula is moving toward peace and reconciliation thanks to the historic north-south summit and the Panmunjom Declaration,” the spokesperson said, using an acronym for North Korea’s official name.

“It would not be conducive to addressing the issue if the US miscalculates the peace-loving intention of the DPRK as a sign of ‘weakness’ and continues to pursue its pressure and military threats against the latter.”

UN sanctions ban exports of coal, iron, seafood, and textiles and limit imports of crude oil, an attempt to cut funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

But Robert Kelly, a political expert at South Korea’s Pusan National University, believes giving too much credit to US-led sanctions is foolish.

“It is the arrogance of outsiders to suggest that the North Koreans are debating or talking to us because of either Trump-ian pressure on the right or [South Korean President] Moon’s liberal engagement on the left. That is outsiders broadcasting our beliefs onto North Korea which is a pretty opaque place,” Kelly said while speaking on a panel about North Korea attended by Business Insider at the Sydney Writers’ Festival last week.

“If there is any one state in the world that we know doesn’t deal or listen to international pressure, which just wanders off and does whatever it wants on its own, it is North Korea,” Kelly said.

Focusing on the success of sanctions, also risks ignoring the current position of Kim Jong Un and what he is truly after.

“The North Koreans are not negotiating from a position of weakness. They’re negotiating from a position of strength. Now they have the ability to strike the US with an Inter-continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) which gives them the deterrence shield they’ve sought for 40 years, they’re now coming forward to shop this around,” Kelly said.

“It’s highly unlikely the North Koreans are choosing to engage us now because of what we on the outside have done, they’re doing it for themselves. They’re not interested in peace, they’re interested in concessions.”