North Korea threatens to resume nuclear development over economic sanctions

Global Perspective: Pope & North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea has warned it could revive a state policy aimed at strengthening its nuclear arsenal if the United States does not lift economic sanctions against the country. A statement released by the Foreign Ministry on Friday evening said North Korea could bring back its "pyongjin" policy of simultaneously advancing its nuclear force and economic development if the United States doesn't change its stance. "Pyongjin" means "dual advancement." 

The North stopped short of threatening to abandon ongoing nuclear negotiations with Washington. Still, it accused Washington of derailing commitments made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump at their June summit in Singapore to work toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. 

This marks the first time the North said it could potentially resume weapons tests and other development activities since Kim signaled a new state policy in April. 

Two sources told CBS News' Pamela Falk that the threat from North Korea is timed to put easing of sanctions on the agenda next week in meetings with the State Department. In an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity on Friday, U.S. 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. 

Pompeo did not provide the location and date for the meeting, which will likely be focused on persuading North Korea to take firmer steps toward denuclearization and setting up a second summit between their leaders.

"A lot of work remains, but I'm confident that we will keep the economic pressure in place until such time as Chairman Kim fulfills the commitment he made to President Trump back in June in Singapore," Pompeo said. 

The North Korean Foreign Ministry statement, released under the name of the director of the ministry's Institute for American Studies, said the "improvement of relations and sanctions is incompatible."

"The U.S. thinks that its oft-repeated 'sanctions and pressure' leads to 'denuclearization.' We cannot help laughing at such a foolish idea," it said. The ministry described the lifting of U.S.-led sanctions as corresponding action to the North's "proactive and good-will measures," apparently referring to its unilateral suspension of nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and closure of a nuclear testing ground. 

NKOREA-POLITICS
This undated picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on October 30, 2018 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting Samjiyon County.  Kcna Via Kns/AFP/Getty Images

Following a series of provocative nuclear and missile tests last year, Kim shifted to diplomacy when he met with Mr. Trump between three summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who lobbied hard to revive nuclear diplomacy. However, the North has been playing hardball since the summits, insisting that sanctions should be lifted before any progress in nuclear talks, which fueled doubts about whether Kim would ever deal away a nuclear program he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival. 

Ahead of his first summit with Moon in April, Kim said the country should shift its focus to economic development as the "pyongjin" policy had achieved a "great victory." He also declared that the North would stop nuclear and long-range missile tests. The North dismantled its nuclear testing ground in May, but didn't invite experts to observe and verify the event.   

In September, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told the United Nations General Assembly there is "no way" his nation will ever disarm its nuclear weapons first if it can't trust Washington, CBS News' Falk reported. "Without any trust in the U.S. there will be no confidence in our national security and, under such circumstances, there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first," Ri said.

"The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe dream of the people who are ignorant about us," Ri said. "The problem is that the continued sanctions are deepening our mistrust."  

Friday's statement said, "If the U.S. keeps behaving arrogantly without showing any change in its stand, while failing to properly understand our repeated demand, the DPRK may add one thing to the state policy for directing all efforts to the economic construction adopted in April and as a result, the word 'pyongjin' may appear again." The statement referred to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.