A day after North Korea’s foreign minister said his country was ready to halt its nuclear tests if the United States suspends its annual military exercises with South Korea, President Barack Obama has said that Washington isn’t taking the proposal seriously.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, interviewed Saturday by the AP, also defended his country’s right to maintain a nuclear deterrent and warned that Pyongyang won’t be cowed by international sanctions.
And for those waiting for the North’s regime to collapse, he had this to say: Don’t hold your breath.
“Stop the nuclear war exercises in the Korean Peninsula, then we should also cease our nuclear tests,” he said in his first interview on Saturday with a Western news organisation.
Obama dismissed North Korea’s latest overture at a news conference on Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hanover, Germany.
“We don’t take seriously a promise to simply halt until the next time they decide to do a test these kinds of activities,” Obama said.
“What we’ve said consistently … is that if North Korea shows seriousness in denuclearising the Korean Peninsula, then we’ll be prepared to enter into some serious conversations with them about reducing tensions and our approach to protecting our allies in the region.
“But that’s not something that happens based on a press release in the wake of a series of provocative behaviours. They’re going to have to do better than that.”
Ri’s interview with the AP came just hours after North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine in its latest show of defiance as this year’s US-South Korea exercises wind down.