SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea's commitment to the "denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula" also includes "completely eliminating the US nuclear threat to Korea", North Korean state media said on Thursday (Dec 20).
US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a joint statement after their historic meeting in Singapore in June that reaffirmed the North's commitment to "work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula" and gave US guarantees of security to North Korea.
Conflicting or vague views of what exactly "denuclearisation" means, however, have complicated negotiations that now appear stalled.
Thursday's commentary, released by North Korea's state-run KCNA news agency, is one of the clearest explanations since the June summit of how Pyongyang sees denuclearisation.
“When we refer to the Korean peninsula, they include both the area of the DPRK and the area of south Korea where aggression troops including the nuclear weapons of the US are deployed,” the North’s state-run KCNA news agency said in a commentary, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“When we refer to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, it, therefore, means removing all elements of nuclear threats from the areas of both the north and the south of Korea and also from surrounding areas from where the Korean peninsula is targeted.”
North Korea rejects American calls for it to unilaterally denuclearise, and Washington should abandon the "delusion" of forcing Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons "via pressure and oppression", the article said.
The United States has said that it will not lift sanctions on North Korea until more progress has been made toward the verifiable denuclearisation of North Korea.
Washington has also rejected any suggestion that it would reduce its military presence in the region as part of a deal with North Korea, but in a surprise move after the summit, Mr Trump announced that the Pentagon would cancel most of its largest military exercises conducted with the South Koreans.
A spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in – who has said Mr Kim intends to achieve “complete denuclearisation” - declined to comment on the North Korean call to lift the US nuclear protection from South Korea, saying there was “no need to respond to every KCNA comment”.
The exact definition of denuclearisation is likely to be raised again, as Mr Trump has said he is working to meet Mr Kim again sometime early next year.
"It is obvious that denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula is a joint work which can never come true unless the DPRK and the US make joint efforts," KCNA said in the commentary, arguing that US threats had forced North Korea to develop a nuclear deterrent.
“It would be proper to say that the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula means ‘completely removing the nuclear threats of the US to the DPRK’, before it means the elimination of its nuclear deterrence.”
The US deployed nuclear weapons in South Korea from 1958 to 1991. Since they were withdrawn, the US has extended its "nuclear umbrella" of support to Japan and South Korea using bombers and submarines based elsewhere.
At a press briefing in Washington on Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said he would not "split words" when asked about whether the promise of "denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula" means only North Korea or the broader region.
"We are focused on the denuclearisation of North Korea," Mr Palladino said. "We remain confident and we look forward to the commitments that Chairman Kim and that President Trump have made."