Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump
Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump Reuters

North Korea said on Tuesday it was no longer bound by commitments to halt nuclear and missile testing, blaming the United States’ failure to meet a year-end deadline for nuclear talks, Reuters reports.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un set an end of December deadline for denuclearization talks with the United States.

In his New Year’s message after his ultimatum to the US expired, the North Korean leader said his country would continue developing nuclear programs unless the US gave up its hostile approach.

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said last week the United States had opened channels of communication and expressed hope Kim would follow through on denuclearization commitments he made at summits with US President Donald Trump.

However, Ju Yong Chol, a counselor at North Korea’s mission to the UN in Geneva, said Tuesday that over the past two years, his country had halted nuclear tests and test firing of inter-continental ballistic missiles “in order to build confidence with the United States”.

But the United States had responded by conducting dozens of joint military exercises with South Korea on the divided peninsula and by imposing sanctions, he charged.

“As it became clear now that the U.S. remains unchanged in its ambition to block the development of the DPRK and stifle its political system, we found no reason to be unilaterally bound any longer by the commitment that the other party fails to honor,” Ju told the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament, according to Reuters.

Ju accused the United States of applying “the most brutal and inhumane sanctions”.

“If the US persists in such hostile policy toward the DPRK there will never be the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” he threatened, adding, “If the United States tries to enforce unilateral demands and persists in imposing sanctions, North Korea may be compelled to seek a new path.”

Kim and Trump engaged in months of mutual insults and threats of devastation in 2017, sending tensions soaring before a diplomatic rapprochement the following year.

The pair have met three times since June 2018, most recently in Vietnam in February, but with little progress towards denuclearization.

Since that June meeting, North Korea has conducted several tests of ballistic missiles.

US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood voiced concern at Pyongyang’s remarks on Tuesday and said Washington hoped the North would return to the negotiating table.

“What we hope is that they will do the right thing and come back to the table and try to work out an arrangement whereby we can fulfill that pledge that was made by President Trump and Chairman Kim to denuclearize,” he said.

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