PYONGYANG, North Korea – Here are five points on tensions between North Korea and the U.S. from Pyongyang's top diplomat for U.S. affairs, interviewed by The Associated Press on Thursday:
SANCTIONS AGAINST KIM RANKLED GREATLY
Han Song Ryol, director-general of the U.S. affairs department at North Korea's Foreign Ministry, emphasized the authoritarian country's anger over Washington's July 6 announcement putting leader Kim Jong Un on a list of sanctioned individuals in connection with alleged human rights abuses documented by the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Pyongyang denies the allegations.
"The Obama administration went so far to have the impudence to challenge the supreme dignity of the DPRK in order to get rid of its unfavorable position during the political and military showdown with the DPRK," Han said, using the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"The United States has crossed the red line in our showdown," he said. "We regard this thrice-cursed crime as a declaration of war."
MORE WAR GAMES, MORE ANGER
Han said the action against Kim and other recent U.S. moves have put the situation on the Korean Peninsula on a war footing. He warned against planned U.S.-South Korean war games next month.
"By doing these kinds of vicious and hostile acts toward the DPRK, the U.S. has already declared war against the DPRK. So it is our self-defensive right and justifiable action to respond in a very hard way," he said.
North Korea typically expresses vehement opposition to U.S.-South Korean war games, which it views as preparations for invasion. Katina Adams, State Department spokeswoman for East Asia and the Pacific, said the exercises are defense-oriented and designed to maintain stability. A South Korean Foreign Ministry official said the joint drills have been conducted for decades to prepare against a real and evident military threat posed by North Korea.
DIPLOMAT'S FLIGHT SPARKS FURY
Han castigated Mark Lippert, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, for a July 12 flight on a U.S. Air Force F-16 based in South Korea. He called it an action "unfit for a diplomat."
"We regard that as the act of a villain, who is a crazy person," Han said. "All these facts show that the United States is intentionally aggravating the tensions in the Korean Peninsula."
NUCLEAR WEAPONS DEFENSE: U.S. STARTED IT
North Korea has been hit with several rounds of international sanctions over its continued development of nuclear weapons and missiles, but Han contended the U.S. is to blame.
"It is not us, it is the United States that first developed nuclear weapons, who first deployed them and who first used them against humankind," he said. "And on the issue of missiles and rockets, which are to deliver nuclear warheads and conventional weapons warheads, it is none other than the United States who first developed it and who first used it."
NORTH KOREA WON'T GIVE UP NUKES
As North Korea has many times before, Han dismissed calls for Pyongyang to defuse tensions by agreeing to abandon its nuclear program. "We are all prepared for war, and we are all prepared for peace," he said.
"We never hide the fact, and we are very proud of the fact, that we have very strong nuclear deterrent forces not only to cope with the United States' nuclear blackmail but also to neutralize the nuclear blackmail of the United States," Han said.