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North Korea warns of return to nuke policy

North Korea has warned the United States it will “seriously” consider returning to a state policy aimed at building nuclear weapons if Washington does not end tough economic sanctions against the impoverished regime.

Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un
Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un

In a statement issued late on Friday, the North’s foreign ministry said Pyongyang could revert to its former policy if the US did not change its stance over sanctions.

“The word ‘byungjin’ may appear again and the change of the line could be seriously reconsidered,” said the statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

For years, North Korea had pursued a “byungjin” policy of simultaneously developing its nuclear capabilities alongside the economy.

In April, citing a “fresh climate of detente and peace” on the peninsula, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared the nuclear quest complete and said his country would focus on “socialist economic construction”.

At an historic summit in Singapore in June, US President Donald Trump and Kim signed a vaguely worded statement on denuclearisation.

But little progress has been made since then, with Washington pushing to maintain sanctions against Pyongyang until its “final, fully verified denuclearisation”, and North Korea condemning US demands as “gangster-like”.

North Korea’s statement, released under the name of the director of the foreign ministry’s Institute for American Studies, also called for an end to US sanctions.

“The improvement of relations and sanctions are incompatible,” it said. “What remains to be done is the US corresponding reply.”

The statement is the latest sign of Pyongyang’s increasing frustration with Washington. — AP