North Korea is ready to resume six-party talks on its nuclear program but must maintain its readiness in the face of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises, a senior envoy in Geneva said on Thursday.
So Se Pyong, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told Reuters that his country was not planning a nuclear or missile test.
In a wide-ranging interview, he said that reports about the ill health of its leader Kim Jong Un were “fabricated rumors” and that it was not clear whether the United States was willing to negotiate the release of three detained Americans.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with North Korea’s foreign minister in Moscow on Wednesday that he saw a possibility that stalled talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program could resume, but it would take time.
“For the six-party talks we are ready, and as far as I think, China and Russia and the DPRK are ready,” So said in the rare interview in the DPRK’s mission overlooking Lake Geneva.
“But America, they don’t like that kind of talks right now. Because America does not like that, so that’s why the countries like South Korea, Japan also are not ready for those talks.”
North Korea promised to abandon its nuclear program in 2005 but appeared to renege on the agreement when it tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009.
Already heavily sanctioned by the world body for its missile and nuclear tests, it has completed a major overhaul of its rocket launch site, a U.S. thinktank said on Thursday, enabling it to fire larger, longer-range rockets.
So, without being specific, linked North Korea’s military preparations to “very serious” U.S.-South Korean exercises earlier this year that he said had deployed nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, submarines and B-52 bombers.