North Korea once again lashed out at the United States, accusing the State Department of “blocking the path to denuclearization” forever by strengthening sanctions amid a recent stalemate in talks between Pyongyang and Washington.
The rogue regime, through a statement from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gave credit to President Trump for his efforts to improve relations between the U.S. and North Korea -- but slammed the State Department for stifling that progress, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported.
"[Trump] avails himself of every possible occasion to state his willingness to improve DPRK-U.S. relations," the statement read, using the abbreviation of the country’s official name -- the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “[The U.S. State Department is] bent on bringing the DPRK-U.S. relations back to the status of last year which was marked by exchanges of fire.”
North Korea urged the U.S. to improve relations on a "step-by-step approach of resolving what is feasible one by one, by giving priority to confidence building.” It then issued a stark warning, saying, if the U.S. failed to pull back its sanctions against the regime, it will "block the path to denuclearization on the Korean peninsula forever -- a result desired by no one.”
Sunday’s statement comes after the U.S. announced new sanctions last week against three top North Korean officials: Choe Ryong Hae, who is considered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s right-hand man; Jong Kyong Thaek, minister of State Security; and Pak Kwang Ho, director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department. The trio is also accused of human rights violations.
Denuclearization talks have struggled to progress since Trump and Kim’s historic Singapore summit in June. North Korea has repeatedly urged the U.S. to scale back sanctions in exchange for the regime taking steps toward denuclearization.
Despite the request -- which have at times been more along the lines of threats -- the U.S. has maintained the crippling sanctions. In November, the Hermit Kingdom threatened to resume its nuclear weapons program.
Trump said in a news conference after the midterm elections he expects to meet with Kim sometime early next year.
“We’re very happy how it’s going with North Korea. We think it’s going fine. We’re in no rush,” the president said. “The sanctions are on...I’d love to take the sanctions off, but they have to be responsive, too.”