N. Korea's proposal to suspend nuclear tests ‘meaningful and significant’
“We the government of the DPRK propose to the US to temporarily suspend the joint military exercises which it conducts every year in South Korea. And if this is the case, we will respond by temporarily suspending nuclear tests which the US is concerned about,” An Myong Hun said in New York, as quoted by Inner City Press.
The deputy ambassador was also quick to blame Washington for the “division of the nation,” calling US foreign policy “hostile” towards the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as every year the US conducts “dangerous military exercises” near the North Korean border.
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“For this, the largest scale war exercises undertaken every year in South Korea, jointly by the US and South Korea, must stop immediately,” he said.
The North Korean envoy said it is “very important” to avoid the “danger of war,” as the US continues to permanently station 30,000 troops in South Korea.
Meanwhile, a two-day joint naval drill on South Korea's east coast started on Tuesday and includes two US destroyers and several South Korean vessels. The USS Mustin and the USS John McCain, each with around 280 sailors on board, are leading the anti-submarine warfare drill. The drill also includes the South Korean destroyer Gwanggaeto, a submarine, anti-submarine aircraft, and two helicopters. The maritime exercise is reportedly aimed at boosting the allies’ readiness to fend off any potential threats from the North, which is believed to have some 70 submarines.
Last Friday, the communist North offered to suspend nuclear tests if Washington agreed to halt this year's drills.
“The DPRK is ready to take such a responsive step as temporarily suspending the nuclear test over which the US is concerned,” KCNA said.
The US rejected the proposal with State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki replying on Saturday that nuke tests and US-led drills are two separate issues.
“The DPRK statement that inappropriately links routine US-ROK [South Korea] exercises to the possibility of a nuclear test by North Korea is an implicit threat,” Psaki told reporters, calling on the North to “immediately cease all threats, reduce tensions, and take the necessary steps toward denuclearization needed to resume credible negotiations.”
North Korea insisted on Tuesday that the official proposal was made through “appropriate channels” and was “meaningful and significant.”
“By refusing to accept our proposal ... the United States has shown once again that they will continue to increase attack military capabilities in South Korea while requesting us not to have our own national defence capabilities,” the envoy said.
Since 2006, North Korea has conducted three separate nuclear tests, the latest in February 2013. It has threatened to hold more tests in response to a United Nations resolution condemning human rights in the country.