On Thursday, the North Korean government issued an unusually fierce statement saying that they would not denuclearize until the United States first removed its nuclear weapons targeting their country. The same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that American’s announced attention to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty raises the likelihood of nuclear war.
The North Korean statement is an outgrowth of the Trump administration’s overselling of the agreement reached between the United States, North Korea, and South Korea in the Singapore summit in June. At that summit, the parties agreed to “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, a vague statement that made no commitment as to time frame or sequencing.
“The United States must now recognize the accurate meaning of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and especially, must study geography,” the North Korean statement asserts. “When we talk about the Korean Peninsula, it includes the territory of our republic and also the entire region of (South Korea) where the United States has placed its invasive force, including nuclear weapons. When we talk about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it means the removal of all sources of nuclear threat, not only from the South and North but also from areas neighboring the Korean Peninsula.”
The statement added, “By replacing the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula with ‘the denuclearization of north Korea,’ the U.S. tries to cause the optical illusion of the people in their view of the DPRK-U.S. relations.”
As Suki Kim recently noted in The New Republic, both the Trump administration and the government of South Korean government of Moon Jae-in have heavily invested in the Singapore deal. The Associated Press observes that the North Korean statement “raises credibility problems for the liberal South Korean government, which has continuously claimed that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is genuinely interested in negotiating away his nuclear weapons as Seoul tries to sustain a positive atmosphere for dialogue.”
Putin’s press conference is equally ominous. As The New York Times reports:
He also noted that Western analysts are talking about the possibility of using low-yield nuclear weapons.
Putin warned that “there is a trend of lowering the threshold” of using nuclear weapons, adding that “lowering the threshold could lead to a global nuclear catastrophe.”
Putin also emphasized that the U.S. pondering the use of ballistic missiles with conventional warheads, saying that the launch of such a missile could be mistaken for the launch of a nuclear-tipped one and trigger a global catastrophe.