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(3rd LD) N. Korea says it has no interest in talks as long as military threats continue

North Korea 11:15 August 22, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS unification ministry official's remarks in last 2 paras)
By Koh Byung-joon and Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, Aug. 22 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Thursday it has no interest in dialogue as long as South Korea and the United States keep up military threats against it, a day after two F-35 stealth fighters arrived in the South.

A spokesperson for the North's foreign ministry issued the warning in a statement, also denouncing South Korea for violating inter-Korean agreements to reduce cross-border tensions by introducing high-tech weapons from the U.S, calling such an act a "grave provocation."

The statement came a day after two additional F-35A fighter jets arrived in South Korea, bringing the total number of the stealth fighters in the country's Air Force to six, and the top U.S. nuclear envoy, Stephen Biegun, said in Seoul that Washington is ready to resume talks with Pyongyang.

"We remain unchanged in our position to resolve all issues in a peaceful manner through dialogue and negotiation. However, dialogue accompanied by military threats is of no interest to us," the statement said.

"This act of continuously introducing the cutting-edge lethal equipment is a grave provocation that has openly denied the joint declarations and the military agreement between the north and the south of Korea," it added.

The statement blamed the U.S. and South Korea for intensifying hostile acts against North Korea, which it said is undermining momentum for talks and forcing Pyongyang to take action to strengthen its own "physical deterrence."

In this file photo, taken March 29, 2019, a U.S. F-35A stealth fighter jet arrives at an air base in Cheongju, 140 kilometers southeast of Seoul. It is one of a pair of the jets that South Korea received on the day, part of the 40 that South Korea agreed to buy in a 2014 contract. (Yonhap)

North Korea has beefed up criticism of South Korea and the U.S. for heightening tensions by holding their summertime joint military exercise. Pyongyang, in particular, has slammed Seoul for its arms build-up, such as the introduction of the F-35A fighter jets. Seoul plans to deploy 40 F-35As through 2021.

On Wednesday, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun told reporters in Seoul that Washington is ready to resume stalled denuclearization talks as soon as he hears from his counterparts in North Korea.

Speculation is growing that the U.S. and North Korea might resume their denuclearization negotiations soon as U.S. President Donald Trump earlier said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed his willingness to resume talks once the military exercise between Seoul and Washington is over.

Denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang have been stalled since the no-deal breakdown of their February summit in Hanoi. They failed to find common ground for Pyongyang's denuclearization steps and Washington's sanctions relief.

Trump and Kim agreed to restart working-level talks within several weeks when they met at the inter-Korean border on June 30. The talks were expected to be held in mid-July, but they have not taken place amid tensions caused by the North's recent missile and projectile launches.

Also on Thursday, the North's state TV, the Korean Central Broadcasting Station, lashed out at South Korea's parliament for adopting a resolution condemning the North's development of nuclear weapons and firing of missiles.

"If the South Korean parliament thinks it can avoid the responsibility of the deadlock in the North-South relations and deteriorated situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula through the adoption of such a resolution against us, it is a miscalculation," the report said.

The parliamentary defense committee adopted the resolution earlier this month after North Korea tested three sets of short-range projectile launches in just over a week. The North conducted three more projectile launches since then until last week.

Seoul reaffirmed its commitment to implementing inter-Korean summit agreements that the leaders of the two Koreas reached last year and resolving any issue with the North through talks, urging Pyongyang to return to the negotiation table immediately.

"In order to implement joint declarations, I would like to say that dialogue and cooperation will be the only way. It is our unchanged stance as well that any differences can be adjusted through talks," a unification ministry official told reporters. "We once again urge the North to respond actively to our efforts to build peace on the Korean Peninsula and advance inter-Korean relations."


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