North Korea will never surrender nuclear arms, says envoy

Robert Wood Johnson IV participates in his confirmation hearing to be ambassador to the United Kingdom, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, on June 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Robert Wood Johnson IV participates in his confirmation hearing to be ambassador to the United Kingdom, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, on June 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (Reuters) - North Korea’s self-defensive nuclear deterrence arsenal will never be on the negotiating table, a Pyongyang envoy said on Tuesday (Aug 22).

Ju Yong Chol, a North Korean diplomat, spoke at a UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament after the US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood said that President Donald Trump’s “top priority” was to protect the United States and its allies against the “growing threat” from North Korea.

“The measures taken by the DPRK (North Korea) to strengthen its nuclear deterrence and develop inter-continental rockets is justifiable and a legitimate option for self-defence in the face of such apparent and real threats,” Ju told the Geneva forum, referring to “constant nuclear threats” by the United States.

“...As long as the US hostile policy and nuclear threat remains unchallenged, the DPRK will never place its self-defensive nuclear deterrence on the negotiating table.”

Fears have grown over North Korea’s development of missiles and nuclear weapons since Pyongyang launched intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in July. Those fears worsened after Trump warned North Korea would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.  

Trump’s remarks led North Korea to say it was considering plans to fire missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam. Trump responded by tweeting that the US military was “locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely”.  

A few days later, North Korean media reported the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, had delayed a decision on whether to fire any missiles towards Guam while he waited to see what the United States would do. Experts warned Pyongyang could still go ahead with the missile launches.  

US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood told the United Nations-sponsored Conference on Disarmament that the “path to dialogue still remains an option” for Pyongyang, but that Washington remained “undeterred in defending against the threat North Korea poses”.

“North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes pose grave threats to the entire world,” Wood told the Geneva forum.

“Its recent ICBM tests are another example of the dangerous reckless behaviour of the North that is destabilising the region and beyond,” he said.  North Korea had openly stated that its missiles are intended to strike cities in the United States and its allies South Korea and Japan, he said.

“My president’s top priority remains protecting the homeland, US territories and our allies against North Korean aggression,” Wood said. “We remain prepared to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal against the growing threat from North Korea,” he told the forum.  

There was no immediate reply from the North Korean disarmament delegation, whose counselor Ju Yong Chol was in the room. Its delegation is not on the speakers’ list for Tuesday, although he could take the floor at the end of day’s session.