North Korea shows no sign it is serious about talking: US official

By Reuters/Matt Spetalnick, Christine Kim   December 13, 2017 | 05:58 pm PT
North Korea shows no sign it is serious about talking: US official
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gave field guidance to the machine plant managed by Jon Tong Ryol in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang April 1, 2015. Photo by KCNA, via Reuters
Kim Jong Un fetes rocket scientists and promises more weapons.

The State Department said Wednesday that the United States would be open to talking to North Korea “when the time is right” but that it could not happen now because Pyongyang has shown no sign of a willingness to halt its missile and nuclear testing.

Despite U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s offer on Tuesday to start talks with North Korea without pre-conditions, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said there would first have to be a “period of calm” in which Pyongyang suspends testing before any negotiations could begin.

Tillerson, in a speech to a Washington think tank on Tuesday, did not explicitly establish such a freeze as a requirement that North Korea must meet ahead of talks.

Nauert, speaking at the State Department’s daily briefing, insisted that Tillerson was not establishing new policy in his speech, even though he appeared to back away from a key U.S. demand that Pyongyang must first accept that any negotiations would have to be about giving up its nuclear arsenal.

More weapons

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un vowed to develop more nuclear weapons on Tuesday while personally decorating scientists and officials who contributed to the development of Pyongyang’s most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-15.

Hwasong-15, which was test-launched on Nov. 29, has been largely perceived by analysts and government officials to have a range that can reach all of the mainland United States.

However, experts believe North Korea still has some technical points it needs to improve before fully completing its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile that can hit the entirety of the United States.

Kim Jong Un said on Tuesday the scientists and workers would continue manufacturing “more latest weapons and equipment” to “bolster up the nuclear force in quality and quantity”, the North’s central news agency reported on Wednesday.

The North Korean leader was speaking at the close of a rare two-day munitions conference to celebrate the Hwasong-15. Kim also said North Korea should develop and manufacture more diverse weapons.

Kim personally awarded medals to “those in the field of defense science who most faithfully and perfectly carried out the Party’s plan for building strategic nuclear force, successfully test-fired ICBM Hwasong-15 and thus demonstrated the dignity and might of our powerful state all over the world once again,” KCNA said without naming the recipients.

They were given several medals, including the Order of Kim Il Sung and Order of Kim Jong Il, the highest orders of the DPRK, an acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

In addition to the medals, KCNA said the scientists and officials were given watches engraved with the names of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader’s grandfather and father.

“He solemnly declared that the development of new strategic weapon systems including A-bomb, H-bomb and ICBM Hwasong-15 with indigenous efforts and technology and the realization of the great cause of completing the state nuclear force serve as a great historic victory of our Party and people of the country,” North Korea’s state media added citing Kim.

The isolated state has previously said it has succeeded in developing atom bombs and hydrogen bombs as it carried out six nuclear tests from 2006, with the latest in September this year, although no outside entity has been able to confirm the North’s announcements.

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