North Korea Reiterates Commitment to Building Nuclear Weapons
North Korea's state media on Sunday reiterated Pyongyang's commitment to building nuclear weapons, dousing limited hopes that the isolated state might engage in talks about its nuclear program under pressure from China.
North Korea's highest policy-making body also directed a harsh verbal attack on South Korean President Park Geun-hye, suggesting prospects for inter-Korean rapprochement remain grim despite a reported agreement from a senior North Korean official to resolve diplomatic standoffs through talks.
That official, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, returned to Pyongyang late Friday after handing a letter from Mr. Kim to Chinese President Xi Jinping. North Korea's account of the letter and conversation between Messrs. Choe and Xi, carried in its state media, referred only to building friendship between the nations and hopes for the success of the two nations under their respective leaders.
In contrast, Chinese media accounts noted Mr. Xi's desire for denuclearization on the Korean peninsula and dialogue to ease a standoff between North Korea and its rivals. Chinese state media also reported that Mr. Choe agreed to unspecified dialogue and the possible resumption of six-party talks, which were used until 2008 to seek North Korea's reversal of its nuclear program.
The reported comments by Mr. Choe contrast with the unequivocal stance of North Korea in recent months that it won't negotiate over its nuclear development. On Sunday, its state media carried a number of reports that emphasized North Korea's commitment to nuclear weapons.
North Korea's "measures for bolstering up [our] nuclear deterrent are an exercise of the legitimate right to defend the sovereignty of the country and the security of the nation," said Rodong Shinmun, the nation's main newspaper and mouthpiece of the Worker's Party, the Korean Central News Agency reported.
Analysts said the contradictory reports about North Korea's stance on its nuclear program reflect the tension in the relationship between Beijing and Pyongyang. While North Korea is desperate to maintain the support of its only major benefactor, it is also determined to gain general acceptance as a nuclear power.
Although China is unlikely to withdraw its support for the North Korean regime, Beijing remains troubled by the North's buildup of its weapons program and the response from South Korea and the U.S. in bolstering their own firepower in the region, analysts said.
"The North Koreans might be willing to make small concessions [to the Chinese] and even agree to remain calm for a while. But the nuclear issue is not negotiable. They are a nuclear power, and will remain as such," said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul.
In order to keep China's all-important aid and energy assistance flowing, North Korea could be open to some sort of bilateral dialogue, but that is likely to have little significance, said Yoo Ho-yeol, a North Korea specialist at Korea University in Seoul.
While the U.S. says it will only talk to North Korea if the North first shows it is prepared to meet previous commitments to denuclearize, South Korea's new leader, Ms. Park, has been seeking dialogue with the North for weeks to restart a jointly run industrial park and to coax the North into a gradual process of building better relations.
Those efforts have been met with firm rejection from the North, which frequently depicts a general conspiracy in the South to undermine its own leadership.
On Sunday, North Korean state media reported commentary from a spokesman for Pyongyang's top decision-making entity, the National Defense Commission, that represented some of the most aggressive criticism of Ms. Park from the North since she took office in February.
Ms. Park "has kicked up confrontation hysteria…through a spate of malignant invectives and sheer sophism since she was busy with a shameful presidential campaign," the report said.
"We will closely follow the future behavior of the present ruling quarters of south Korea, including Park Geun-hye," the report said, using a lowercase "s" in South because North Korea doesn't acknowledge South Korea as an independent country.