North Korea: Up to US to decide what Christmas gift it will get

Skiers watching fireworks during a ceremony to mark the completion of the township of Samjiyon county in North Korea on Monday. The city is envisaged as a "socialist utopia" with new apartments, hotels, a ski resort and commercial, cultural and medic
Skiers watching fireworks during a ceremony to mark the completion of the township of Samjiyon county in North Korea on Monday. The city is envisaged as a "socialist utopia" with new apartments, hotels, a ski resort and commercial, cultural and medical facilities. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SEOUL • North Korea's Foreign Ministry has warned again that its year-end deadline for the United States to change its "hostile policies" is approaching and said it is up to Washington to decide what "Christmas gift" comes at the end of the year, state media reported yesterday.

Mr Ri Thae Song, North Korea's Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs in charge of relations with the US, accused Washington of being "keen on earning time" instead of making concessions.

"The dialogue touted by the US is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favour of the political situation and election in the US," he said in a statement on state news agency KCNA.

DPRK refers to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the country's official name.

Mr Ri added: "What is left to be done now is the US option and it is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get."

He singled out a State Department statement calling for "sustained and substantial dialogue" after North Korea's test of its new multiple rocket launchers last week.

North Korea is asking the US to soften its stance in denuclearisation talks that have made little progress despite three meetings between the two countries' leaders.

Negotiations between North Korea and the US have hit a stalemate after a working-level meeting in October in Stockholm broke down.

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un has set an end-year deadline for Washington to show flexibility in its position, but US officials have described the deadline as artificial.

The country, meanwhile, celebrated the completion of Mr Kim's signature construction project - a new city near the sacred mountain where his family claims its roots, with state media calling it the "epitome of modern civilisation".

A massive celebration involving fireworks was held at the city near Mount Paektu on Monday, KCNA news agency said yesterday.

The Rodong Sinmun, a ruling party mouthpiece, ran photos showing Mr Kim smiling as he cut a ribbon at the ceremony, and buildings covered in snow.

The city named Samjiyon is envisaged as a "socialist utopia" with new apartments, hotels, a ski resort and commercial, cultural and medical facilities.

KCNA said the city can accommodate 4,000 families and has 380 blocks of public and industrial buildings on "hundreds of hectares".

The city is one of the largest economic initiatives Mr Kim has launched as part of his drive for a "self-reliant economy", but its construction was delayed chiefly due to shortages in construction materials and labour as a result of sanctions imposed to curb Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

Delays in the construction also prompted the Kim regime to mobilise youth labour brigades, which defectors and human rights activists have likened to "slave labour" as they get no pay, poor food and are forced to work more than 12 hours a day for up to 10 years in return for better chances to enter a university or join the all-powerful Workers' Party.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2019, with the headline 'N. Korea: Up to US to decide what Christmas gift it will get'. Print Edition | Subscribe