ASEAN summit: Nations hope for nuke talks with North Korea; Pyongyang warns U.S.

VIENTIANE, Laos, July 26 (UPI) — At a regional security conference in Laos Tuesday, Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries called for resuming talks on North Korea‘s nuclear program, but only if Pyongyang proves it is sincere about ending its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Kim Hong-Hyun, special representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, who is also an ASEAN top negotiator, said Tuesday the long-stalled talks between the six nations — North and South Korea, Japan, Russia, the United States and China — could move forward if North Korea changes its stance on nuclear weapons.

“If North Korea wants a serious dialogue, it should demonstrate its commitment to sincerely carrying out denuclearization,” he said during the keynote speech at a meeting of international security experts. “North Korea should change its strategic calculations so it can return to the denuclearization dialogue.”

Kim said the north’s nuclear weapons development program goes against the worldwide trend of tamping down nuclear arms.

“North Korea is the only nuke-testing country in the 21st century and it’s irresponsible to dismiss their threats of pre-emptive nuclear attacks as mere bluffs,” Kim said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at the end of the ASEAN forum, said North Korea’s “provocative and deeply concerning behavior” goes against the international trend of “trying to move in a different direction on nuclear weapons.”

Kerry added that the Iran nuclear deal with the United States and other countries shows acrimony can be overcome to stop a nuclear threat.

“So countries can do this. But North Korea alone, the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], the only country in the world defying the international movement towards responsibility, continues to develop its own weapon, continues to develop its missiles, continues in provocative actions,” he said, adding U.N. Security Council sanctions have done little to deter Pyongyang.

“The DPRK chooses to flout its international obligations. It is critical for the world and for all countries to fully enforce the sanctions that have been imposed and we intend to do that,” he said.

North Korean officials, though, said the U.S.-led sanctions against Pyongyang would not go unpunished.

“We are ready to show that even a [powerful] country will surely not be safe if it tries to torment and harm a small country,” North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said in a statement Tuesday.

“The United States will have to pay dearly a terrifying price.”

With his remarks, Ri said the American government’s criticisms of North Korea’s human rights record amounted to a declaration of war.

A South Korean news report said Ri also alluded to a possible new nuclear test by Pyongyang sometime this year.

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