to attend their historic US-North Korea summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018. KCNA VIA KNS / AFP
North Korea on Friday publicly questioned why it should continue its uneasy detente with the United States, citing the Trump administration’s “empty promises” and a lack of concrete results since the two countries’ leaders first met in Singapore two years ago.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon said through state media agency KCNA on Friday that North Korea would continue building up its military forces, including its controversial nuclear missile program, in a statement that coincided with the two-year anniversary of the unprecedented 2018 summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.
Ri questioned why North Korea should bother to “keep holding hands shaken in Singapore” when no tangible improvements had come out of the unusual personal relationship between the two leaders, and accused Trump of having listed his successes in North Korea “time and time again as a boast.”
“The U.S. professes to be an advocate for improved relations with the DPRK, but in fact, it is hell-bent on only exacerbating the situation,” he continued, suggesting that Washington had coupled its newly conciliatory tone with the same aggressive policies it has long leveled at the North.
“Never again will we provide the U.S. chief executive with another package to be used for [burnishing his own] achievements without receiving any returns,” said Ri. “Nothing is more hypocritical than an empty promise.”
He added that North Korea had resolved to increase its military might, including “further bolstering the national nuclear war deterrent to cope with the U.S. unabated threats of nuclear war.”
North Korea also urged the U.S. to “keep its mouth shut” about inter-Korean affairs after the communist country severed all communications with South Korea earlier this week.
Though the 2018 meeting between Kim and Trump in Singapore yielded little more than an ambiguously worded statement, it did serve to ratchet back what had been growing tensions between the longtime adversaries, with both sides agreeing to work on the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
The United States has yet to react to the statement as of writing, but as recently as Thursday, a U.S. State Department spokesperson told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency that the U.S. was “willing to take a flexible approach” to fulfill the Singapore agreement.
However, the ties between the two leaders appear to have deteriorated since their second summit in February 2019 in Vietnam, which failed to reach an agreement on North Korean denuclearization in exchange for easing U.S. sanctions on the reclusive regime.
Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea expert at King’s College London, said on Twitter that Ri was hinting that all of North Korea’s options—from further diplomacy to continued nuclear provocations—were still on the table.
“North Korea continues to need a proper deal more than the U.S.,” Pacheco Pardo said on Twitter. "That hasn’t changed.”
However, Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, told VICE that the North had few options beyond falling back on its old playbook of bellicose rhetoric.
“North Korea is beginning to build up tension in the peninsula to get the U.S.’ attention at the end of Trump’s current term,” he said. “Ramping up pressure is the only card that North Korea can play.”