North Korea Vows to Boost Nuclear Program, Saying U.S. Diplomacy Failed

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Friday said that two years of diplomacy with President Trump had “faded away into a dark nightmare,” and vowed to increase its nuclear weapons capabilities.

“Even a slim ray of optimism for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula has faded away into a dark nightmare,” the country’s foreign minister, Ri Son-gwon, said in a statement on Friday marking the second anniversary of a historic summit meeting between Mr. Trump and the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

When Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump met in Singapore on June 12, 2018, they signed a vaguely worded agreement to improve ties between their nations and work toward “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

But bilateral ties have since deteriorated, especially after the two leaders’ second meeting, held in Vietnam in February 2019, ended without agreement on how to dismantle the North’s nuclear weapons program and when to ease sanctions against the North.

Although Washington continues to make “nonsensical remarks that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is still a secure goal of the United States,” North Korea’s strategic goal is “to build up a more reliable force to cope with the long-term military threats from the U.S.,” Mr. Kwon said​ on Friday​.

He ​suggested that the ​North’s ​goal involved ​expanding ​its nuclear​ ​weapons program, noting that Mr. Kim ​gave such an instruction during a meeting of his Central Military Commission in May. When Mr. Kim convened his country’s top military-governing body​ last month​, he outlined “new policies for further increasing” its nuclear capabilities and promoted top weapons development officials.

Since Mr. Kim returned home empty-handed from his second summit with Mr. Trump, North Korea has repeatedly expressed its frustrations, saying that it had lost faith in Washington and that it was prepared for a prolonged standoff with the United States.

Since taking over his country following the death of his father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il, in 2011, Mr. Kim has accelerated his country’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. North Korea has conducted the last four of its six underground nuclear tests under his rule. It also flight-tested three intercontinental ballistic missile tests in 2017.

Mr. Kim then switched to diplomacy with Mr. Trump, after declaring a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. North Korea has also destroyed part of its underground nuclear weapons tests site and returned the remains of American soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, as well as​ releasing three Americans held hostage.

But those gestures were not enough for Mr. Trump to strike a new deal with Mr. Kim in Vietnam. During the talks, Washington asked North Korea to start dismantling its nuclear weapons and fissile materials before sanctions would be eased, but North Korea insisted they be lifted earlier.

“In retrospect,” Mr. Kwon said on Friday, all Washington has been doing was “accumulating its political achievements.”

“Never again will we provide the U.S. chief executive with another package to be used for achievements without receiving any returns,” he said.

In May of last year, North Korea broke an 18-month hiatus in weapons tests, conducting 18 tests of mostly short-range ballistic missiles and rockets since. In December, it conducted two ground tests at its missile engine test site to bolster what it called its “nuclear deterrent.” Later that month, Mr. Kim said that his country no longer felt bound by its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests, and threatened to unveil a new strategic weapon.

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