(ATTN: ADDS unification ministry's response at bottom, photo)
By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Friday it would be a "miscalculation" if the United States tries to confront Pyongyang with sanctions, urging it to drop its hostile stance.
In a statement, North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho also warned that Pyongyang will remain "the biggest threat" to Washington for a long time should the U.S. stick to a hostile stance.
"It would be a miscalculation if the U.S. is unwilling to give up its confrontational stance and tries to confront us with such things as sanctions," Ri said in the statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
"Then, we would remain the biggest threat to the U.S. for a long time and make it realize what it has to do for the sake of denuclearization once and for all," he added. "We are ready both for confrontation and dialogue."
He also strongly criticized U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for hampering talks and called him a "poisonous plant" among U.S. diplomats, citing a recent media interview in which Pompeo said that the toughest sanctions will be kept in place until the North gives up its nuclear weapons.
"If the U.S. still has a hollow dream that it can achieve everything with sanctions, we have no choice but to leave it to dream on or make it disillusioned," Ri said.
The criticism came a day after the North said it has no interest in talks as long as military threats continue, taking issue with Seoul's move to introduce F-35 stealth fighters from Washington. It also came after top U.S. nuclear envoy, Stephen Biegun, said in Seoul on Wednesday that Washington is ready to resume talks with Pyongyang.
Biegun's trip, which coincided with the end of a joint military drill by Seoul and Washington, spawned speculation that the North and the U.S. could soon resume working-level talks following a monthslong stalemate caused by the no-deal breakdown of their summit in February.
The summit fell apart as they failed to find common ground over Pyongyang's denuclearization steps and Washington's sanctions relief.
North Korea has beefed up criticism of South Korea and the U.S. for heightening tensions by holding their summertime joint military exercise. Pyongyang has also 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, Biegun told reporters here that Washington is ready to resume stalled denuclearization talks as soon as he hears from his counterparts in North Korea.
Speculation arose 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.
Trump and Kim agreed to restart working-level talks within several weeks when they met at the inter-Korean border on June 30. The promised talks have not taken place amid tensions sparked by the North's recent series of weapons tests in protest of the Seoul-Washington military exercise.
Seoul's unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs urged Pyongyang and Washington to build mutual trust and respect in each other, hoping they could produce "good results" in their denuclearization talks.
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