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North Korea says it won't disarm first, citing sanctions as source of mistrust in U.S.

Secretary Pompeo responded, saying that the sanctions must continue "vigorously and without fail" until the region denuclearizes.
Image: Ri Yong Ho
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, on Sept. 29, 2018 at U.N. headquarters.Mary Altaffer / AP

UNITED NATIONS — North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told the United Nations on Saturday that continued sanctions on Pyongyang were deepening its mistrust in the United States.

"Without any trust in the U.S. there will be no confidence in our national security and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first," Ri told the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.

The comments come as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepares to travel to Pyongyang next month for his fourth trip to North Korea, his third as secretary of state. Discussions of a second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are already underway.

China and Russia have said the U.N. Security Council should reward Pyongyang for steps taken after U.S. Trump and Kim met in June and Kim pledged to work toward denuclearization.

"The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe-dream of the people who are ignorant about us. But the problem is that the continued sanctions are deepening our mistrust," Ri said.

However, Pompeo told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday: "Enforcement of Security Council sanctions must continue vigorously and without fail until we realize the fully, final, verified denuclearization."

Ri noted that North Korea had taken "significant good-will measures such as stopping nuclear and ICBM tests, dismantling the nuclear test site in a transparent manner and affirming not to transfer nuclear weapons and nuclear technology under any circumstances."

"However, we do not see any corresponding response from the U.S.," he added.

Pyongyang has also made clear that they are looking for a formal declaration to the end of the Korean War. The U.S. has not ruled it out.

"It's hard to know. I don't want to prejudge precisely where we'll end up," Pompeo said this week when pressed on the possibility as a next step. "But make no mistake about it, there is real progress being made."

The Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.