North Korea (along with China, its primary benefactor, and Russia, which also supports the Kim regime) believes it has made a good-faith effort to signal that it's "serious" about denuclearization.
To date, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has offered to dismantle nuclear facilities and ICBM launch sites under international supervision, ceased nuclear and missile tests and restarted cooperation in the Kaesong Industrial Region with South Korea. Still, the US has continued to insist that the North must surrender all of its nuclear weapons before sanctions can be lifted. So in a speech before the UN General Assembly on Saturday, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong ho warned that the US's obstinance was "deepening mistrust" between the two nations.
Minister Ri Yong ho
And Ri isn't the only one: According to the Associated Press and Reuters, China and Russia believe the UN Security Council (a body of which they are both permanent members) should reward Pyongyang for steps taken after President Trump met Kim in Singapore earlier this year in what was a historic summit and the first time a sitting US president had ever met with a North Korean leader.
As the two nations prepare for a second summit, Ri said they should focus on implementing an agreement to begin unwinding punishing economic sanctions, which have crippled the North's economy.
"The primary task for effectively implementing the DPRK-US Joint Statement should be bringing down the barrier of mistrust between the two countries," Ri said during the speech. "All the past process for the implementation of previous agreements from various dialogues and negotiations between the DPRK and the U.S. ended in failure because the mistrust between the two was not sufficiently removed."
He also claimed that the North had taken "good-will measures" even before the summit to try and convince the US of its sincerity.
"Even before the DPRK-U.S. summit, the DPRK government took significant good-will measures...and it continues to put in efforts to trust-building. However, we do not see any corresponding response from the U.S."
But despite the North's efforts, the US has continued to insist on a "denuclearization first" approach.
"Instead of addressing our concern for the absence of peace regime...the US insists on the 'denuclearization-first' and increases the level of pressure by sanctions...and even objecting the 'declaration of the end of war.'"
"The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe-dream of the people who are ignorant about us."
What's more, if it were South Korea - and not the US - that was responsible for deciding when to lift the sanctions, they would have been lifted already.
"If the party to this issue of denuclearization were South Korea and not the US, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula would not have come to such a deadlock."
"Without any trust in the US there will be no confidence in our national security and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first."
Ri's demands come two days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is preparing to travel to North Korea to help prep for a second summit between Kim and Trump, told the UN Security Council that "enforcement of Security Council sanctions must continue vigorously and without fail until we realize the fully, final, verified denuclearization." Negotiations between the two sides stalled out over the summer as Trump ordered Pompeo to cancel a then-upcoming visit to the North. We can only imagine what will happen once it finally dawns on Trump and his administration that North Korea has no intention of surrendering its nukes...
Of course, there is always the highly probable chance that North Korea's sudden change in tone is all down to Beijing backlash as the heat once again turns up between Trump and Xi - for now no comment from President Trump on Twitter.