North Korea will not be interested in diplomacy until it develops an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the US east coast, a North Korean official told CNN on Monday.
“Before we can engage in diplomacy with the Trump administration, we want to send a clear message that the DPRK has a reliable defensive and offensive capability to counter any aggression from the United States,” the official said, according to CNN, using an abbreviation for the country’s formal name.
North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador, Kim In Ryong, echoed the sentiment on Monday: “Unless the hostile policy and the nuclear threat of the US is thoroughly eradicated, we will never put our nuclear weapons and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table under any circumstances,” Kim said, according to Reuters.
Tension in the region is especially high as US and South Korean forces conduct and prepare to conduct major naval and ground exercises. North Korea often releases a flurry of incensed statements before US-South Korean drills, such as a recent one calling a drill a “reckless act of war maniacs.”
Though the country’s claims about its technology are often exaggerated, North Korea’s latest advancement in its missile program have drawn concern from officials at the White House, who have said the country is “developing a pretty good nuclear reentry vehicle.”
During a press conference on Thursday, the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, said he considered the North Korean threat “manageable,” though he said the US could face a bigger problem if North Korea’s missile program “grows beyond where it is today.”
While North Korea appears intent on keeping diplomacy off the table for now, the US continues to seek out support in the region. President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-In next month in South Korea, where a White House statement says he will call for “maximizing pressure on North Korea.”