While advocates for peace and diplomacy remain anxious over incendiary rhetoric from U.S. war hawks, the North Korean government responded on Saturday to recent calls for talks as well as upcoming joint military drills by the United States and South Korea by rejecting U.S. preconditions for negotiations and threatenting to "counter" the military exercises.
In anticipation of joint drills planned for early next month, North Korea's state news agency reported Saturday: "If the U.S. finally holds joint military exercises while keeping sanctions on the DPRK, the DPRK will counter the U.S. by its own mode of counteraction and the U.S. will be made to own all responsibilities for the ensuing consequences," using North Korea's formal name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK.
The news agency also ran comments from the country's foreign ministry, reiterating that it will not accept the Trump administration's demand that North Korea denuclearize ahead of diplomatic talks, which critics have called "unattainable."
"The U.S. attitude shown after we clarified our intention for DPRK-U.S. dialogue compels us to only think that the U.S. is not interested in resuming the DPRK-U.S. dialogue," a North Korean ministry spokesperson said. "Whether peace desired by our nation and the rest of the world settles on the Korean peninsula, or a situation that no one desires is developed in the vicious cycle of confrontation, depends entirely on the attitude of the U.S."
While South Korean President Moon Jae-in has met with representatives from the North in recent weeks, both he and the Trump administration have pressured North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, to commit to dismantling his nation's nuclear weapons program, which the U.S. insists must occur ahead of any negotiations.
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The White House reaffirmed that position following a call Thursday between President Donald Trump and Moon, declaring in a statement that the pair "noted their firm position that any dialogue with North Korea must be conducted with the explicit and unwavering goal of complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization."
Meanwhile, war hawks in the Trump administration and Congress continue to discuss the possibilities of military action and war with North Korea, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)—who is known for having the president's ear on occasion—coming under fire for telling CNN this week: "All the damage that would come from a war would be worth it in terms of long-term stability and national security."
Sen Graham believes war would result in long term stability. Did US increase stability when we attacked Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria or Libya? NO.— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) March 3, 2018
N Korea could retaliate by nuking S Korea, Japan & potentially Guam. Hundreds of thousands of Americans could die. NOT. WORTH. IT. https://t.co/vLMh6VaKyd
Here is General Milley testifying on The Hill about a war on the Korean Peninsula that Lindsey Graham says is “worth it.” Lindsey knows hundreds of thousands, if not millions could die—including Americans, but he is ok with this. https://t.co/wNNSlCqVYE— Donté Stallworth (@DonteStallworth) March 3, 2018