US Must Eliminate "Nuclear Threat" First, Demands Jarring North Korea Statement

In the latest sign that the Trump-Kim brief honeymoon phase of mutually presenting glowing letters and heaping praise on each other is over, North Korea said Thursday it will never voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons unless the “U.S. nuclear threat to Korea” is eliminated, according a statement presented by its official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

"The proper definition of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is completely eliminating the American nuclear threat to North Korea before eliminating our nuclear capability," the statement said. The aggressive statement asserting the US must blink first comes a moment the US and North Korea have been deadlocked over negotiations related to easing sanctions, and after the Trump-Kim historic summit on June 12 in Singapore wherein both leaders pledged to "work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

And though advancements between the North and South have been perhaps presented in a rosier light than what Thursday's statement suggest is the actual state of relations, it appears the pressing issue remains of extensive military assets in South Korea as well as the South being under the US nuclear umbrella. The statement indicated North Korea will eventually demand withdrawal of the some 28,500 US troops currently stationed on the peninsula.

“The United States must now recognize the accurate meaning of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and especially, must study geography,” the statement said.

And further, the KCNA statement said the following, according to the AP:

When we talk about the Korean Peninsula, it includes the territory of our republic and also the entire region of (South Korea) where the United States has placed its invasive force, including nuclear weapons. When we talk about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it means the removal of all sources of nuclear threat, not only from the South and North but also from areas neighboring the Korean Peninsula.

The statement also charged Washington with altering what had been agreed upon at Singapore and using threats to create an impasse over post-summit talks. And since the the stalled talks, satellite imagery recently published in international media suggests North Korea is actively upgrading its nuclear facilities. 

The KCNA said, “If we unilaterally give up our nuclear weapons without any security assurance despite being first on the U.S. list of targets for pre-emptive nuclear strikes, that wouldn’t be denuclearization — it would rather be a creation of a defenseless state where the balance in nuclear strategic strength is destroyed and the crisis of a nuclear war is brought forth.” 

And demanding the end of sanctions and "and end to hostile policies" as a precondition to denuclearization, the statement continued:

The corresponding measures we have asked the United States to take aren’t difficult for the United States to commit to and carry out. We are just asking the United States to put an end to its hostile policies (on North Korea) and remove the unjust sanctions, things it can do even without a snap of a finger.

Meanwhile this week the State Department issued an update on stalled negotiations, saying the US "remains confident" about the push toward denuclearization, and that the US looks forward to the "commitments that Chairman Kim and President Trump have made."

But Thursday's North Korean statement has left the skeptics feeling justified as denuclearization looks further away than ever, given the seeming sheer impossibility of the demand for "the removal of all sources of nuclear threat, not only from the South and North but also from areas neighboring the Korean Peninsula".