NEW YORK - North Korea will keep its nuclear program and could review its policy toward the United States completely if Washington continues to press Pyongyang on human rights, a senior North Korean official said on Monday.
Jang Il Hun, North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador in New York, told VOA that his country already declared itself a nuclear-armed state in its constitution and adopted a new policy calling for expansion of nuclear weapons. In a rare interview, he stated his country’s positions on the nuclear issue, human rights, and American detainees.
“If America continues to press us on the human rights issue, we have no option but to review our policy toward America completely,” warned Jang.
He did not elaborate on what a review of policy meant specifically.
North Korea agreed to a nuclear deal where it promised to abandon its nuclear program, but seemed to back-peddle efforts on denuclearization when it subsequently conducted nuclear tests. Recently, the country signaled renewed interest in resuming the stalled nuclear talks.
However, Jang raised doubts about the prospect of resuming the talks.
“I do not see the point of having the six-party talks at this point,” he said.
He accused the U.S. of masterminding international criticism of his country’s human rights records to launch a smear campaign against the country’s political system.
Asked whether the North will allow a visit by an investigator from outside to probe the human rights situation inside the country, the North Korean envoy replied: “It is a subject for discussion as long as the matter is handled in a positive manner.”
Three Americans are being detained in the North on charges of committing hostile acts against the country. Recently, U.S. officials made repeated calls for the release of the Americans, stressing the issue poses a serious impediment to better ties with Washington. So far, Pyongyang has not responded positively to the call.
On the possibility of negotiating the release of the three Americans, Jang said it would be difficult, saying “it is a matter of enforcing law.”
Despite the standoff over the nuclear issue and American detainees, Washington and Pyongyang appear to be keeping dialogue open through the so-called New York channel.
Asked whether there is regular communication between Washington and Pyongyang, Jang, who serves as Pyongyang’s point man for talks with Washington, said: “We meet with U.S. officials and discuss issues of mutual concern on a regular basis.”