Relations between Washington and Pyongyang have grown more contentious in the wake of the alleged North Korea cyberattack on the Sony Pictures movie studio. The U.S. was quick to reject a North Korean proposal to reduce regional tensions and is instead focused on pressuring and isolating the regime.
North Korea is already under U.N. sanctions for conducting banned nuclear tests in the past, which is why Washington said it was inappropriate and an implied threat when North Korea offered to halt further nuclear tests if the U.S. agreed to suspend joint military drills with South Korea.
North Korean Deputy U.N. Ambassador An Myong Hun said by rejecting this proposal the U.S. is reaffirming its hostile intent.
“By refusing to accept our proposal of the government of the DPRK, the United States has shown once again that [it] will continue to increase [its] attack military capabilities in South Korea while requesting us not to have our own national defense capabilities,” said Hun.
Since the Korean War ended with a ceasefire and not a formal treaty in 1953, the two sides technically remain at war. The U.S maintains a large military presence in South Korea and the two regularly conduct joint military exercises.
Relations between the two countries have grown more tense following what the U.S. says was a North Korean orchestrated cyberattack on Sony Pictures in December over the movie “The Interview,” which comically depicts the assassination of Kim Jong Un. Pyongyang has denied playing any role in the attack.
Testifying before Congress, Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser said new sanctions now being imposed against North Korea will allow the U.S. to financially squeeze specific agencies and officials involved in cyber terrorism.
“Then, once so targeted, we could apply sanctions with respect to any individual or entity who's providing them in turn material support or any individual or entity that they in turn control,” said Glaser.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Sung Kim said the U.S. is working more closely with North Korea’s key ally in the region, one that is growing more concerned over Pyongyang’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and its dismal human rights record.
“I think what we have seen in our cooperation with China is that China is working with us more effectively and trying to stifle North Korea's dangerous activities,” said Kim.
South Korea has offered to meet with North Korean officials without any pre-conditions. but Washington continues to hold a hard line position, demanding that Pyongyang curb its nuclear program to comply with past international agreements before starting new negotiations.
VOA News Producer in Seoul Youmi Kim contributed to this report.