A senior United States diplomat has urged North Korea to end its “concerning and counterproductive” missile tests and resume negotiations.
Sung Kim, the top US official on North Korea affairs, spoke on Sunday after meeting with South Korean officials to discuss North Korea’s recent streak of missile tests, including its first underwater ballistic missile launch in two years.
The tests come amid a long-running impasse in nuclear diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang.
“We call on the DPRK to cease these provocations and other destabilising activities, and instead, engage in dialogue,” Kim told reporters, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“We remain ready to meet with the DPRK without preconditions and we have made clear that the United States harbours no hostile intent towards the DPRK,” he said.
Last Tuesday, North Korea fired a newly developed ballistic missile from a submarine in its fifth round of weapons tests in recent weeks. South Korean officials said the submarine-fired missile appears to be in an early stage of development.
Still, that marked North Korea’s first underwater-launched test since October in 2019 and the most high-profile one since US President Joe Biden took office in January.
Missiles fired from submarines are harder to detect in advance and would provide North Korea with a secondary, retaliatory attack capability.
The launch violated multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions imposed on the North and “poses a threat to the DPRK’s neighbours and the international community,” Kim said.
He also described the test as “concerning and counterproductive to making progress toward a lasting peace on the Korean peninsula”.
Pyongyang so far has rejected US overtures, accusing Washington and Seoul of talking diplomacy while ratcheting up tensions with their own military activities.
It also accused the US on Thursday of overreacting to its “defensive” submarine-launched ballistic missile test, and questioned the sincerity of Washington’s offers of talks.
“It is a clear double standard that the United States denounces us for developing and testing the same weapons system it already has or was developing, and that only adds suspicions to their sincerity after saying they have no hostility towards us,” a spokesperson for the North’s foreign ministry said.
The US could face “more grave and serious consequences” if they opted for wrong behaviour, the spokesperson said, warning against “fiddling with a time bomb”.
South Korean nuclear envoy Noh Kyu-duk meanwhile said Sunday’s talks with Kim had included “serious” discussion of Seoul’s proposal to formally declare an end to the state of war that has technically existed since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
South Korean officials see such a declaration as a gesture of goodwill to get talks started.