VIENTIANE, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 26th july, 2016) - North Korea's foreign minister said Tuesday that any decision to stage a further nuclear test would depend on the United States, as he held Washington responsible for scuppering denuclearisation efforts on the Korean peninsula. "Whether we conduct additional nuclear tests is entirely up to the United States," Ri Yong-Ho told reporters on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Laos.
His comments came just hours after US Secretary of John Kerry, who was attending the same forum in Vientiane, warned of "real consequences" if Pyongyang pushes ahead with nuclear and missile tests. The newly appointed Ri, who was making his overseas debut as the North's top diplomat, blamed the United States for the failure of the long-dormant six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programme. "The denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula went out of the window because of the United States," he said.
Ri was previously the North's top negotiator to the six-party talks which rought together the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China, and were last held in 2008. "The key factor damaging the situation is the United States' hostile policies... and the problem is getting worse," he said, citing significantly toughened UN and US economic sanctions imposed after the North's fourth nuclear test in January. "And recently they committed the most grave hostility by insulting our Dear Leader," Ri said, referring to the US decision to personally blacklist Kim Jong-Un over human rights abuses.
Despite the latest sanctions, North Korea has continued to carry out ballistic missile tests in violation of UN sanctions, and has made it clear that it intends to continue nuclear testing. The issue of the North's weapons programme has dominated this week's talks in Vientiane -- a rare opportunity for all the members of the six-party process to be in the same room. Kerry, who has held a flurry of closed-door meetings with his regional counterparts over the last two days, said there was unanimity on the need to curb the North's nuclear ambitions.
"Together we are determined... to make absolutely certain that DPRK (North Korea) understands that there are real consequences for these actions," Kerry told reporters. Ri insisted that the North was a "responsible nuclear state" which would only strike if threatened, and he called on the United States to withdraw its troops from South Korea immediately.