N. Korea sticks with 'new era' pledge

SEOUL • North Korea appeared unwilling yesterday to respond harshly after US President Donald Trump reversed course to declare it still a threat, pledging that its leader Kim Jong Un's regime seeks a "new era" with the United States but offering no specific plans towards dismantling its nuclear programme.

The comments, which were made in Uriminzokkiri, a North Korean website, also did not address promises by North Korea to return the remains of some US military personnel from the Korean War.

On Saturday, the US military sent 100 wooden coffins to a United Nations-supervised area in the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in anticipation of receiving some of the remains. Repatriation of remains has occurred in the past, but only sporadically.

Separately, 158 metal caskets were also being readied at the US air base in Osan, South Korea, to prepare for the cross-Pacific journey home. They were moved from Yongsan in central Seoul, the South's Yonhap news agency reported.

The report in Uriminzokkiri urged both sides to move ahead with "faithfully implementing" the joint declaration from the June 12 summit in Singapore between Mr Trump and Mr Kim.

The Uriminzokkiri report expressed Mr Kim's "firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".

But North Korea has yet to clarify its interpretation of denuclearisation in the region.

PLEDGE TO OPEN 'NEW ERA'

We will conscientiously fulfil our responsibility to address decades-long tensions and hostile relations, and open a new era of the North-US cooperation.

THE URIMINZOKKIRI REPORT, without mentioning North Korea's nuclear programme or Mr Donald Trump.

In the past, Pyongyang has defined it to include an end to the US-South Korea military alliance and US withdrawal of its nuclear umbrella protecting South Korea and Japan.

"We will conscientiously fulfil our responsibility to address decades-long tensions and hostile relations, and open a new era of the North-US cooperation," the Uriminzokkiri report added, without mentioning North Korea's nuclear programme or Mr Trump.

Mr Trump on Friday renewed sanctions on North Korea for a year in an executive order, citing an "extraordinary threat" posed by Pyongyang.

The comments in his notice to the US Congress was in sharp contrast to his post-summit assertions that North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat to the United States.

Analysts told The Korea Herald that the extension of sanctions is aimed at pressuring Pyongyang as the Trump administration adopts a carrot-and-stick approach towards North Korea.

"I think North Korea's recently strengthening ties with China has also had an impact on Trump ramping up pressure on North Korea," said Professor Park Won Gon of Handong Global University.

During his third trip to China this year, the North Korean leader told Chinese President Xi Jinping last week that the two countries "are as close and friendly as family".

WASHINGTON POST , THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2018, with the headline 'N. Korea sticks with 'new era' pledge'. Print Edition | Subscribe