WASHINGTON — North Korea in a Tuesday speech at the United Nations blamed “hostile” U.S. policies for this past spring’s heightened Korean Peninsula tensions.
“The repeated vicious cycle of mounting tension on the Korean Peninsula has its roots in the hostile policy of the U.S.” toward North Korea, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil Yon said in an address to the U.N. General Assembly, according to his prepared remarks.
Outraged by the United States and South Korea’s traditional spring joint military maneuvers, North Korea in April retaliated by deploying ballistic missiles to its coast and warning repeatedly that it was on the verge of launching nuclear attacks. Regional tensions gradually cooled, though the experience contributed to Washington’s decision to field additional missile interceptors in Alaska.
Pak also renewed his government’s grievances with the harsh sanctions imposed upon it by the Security Council as punishment for its recent missile and nuclear tests.
“Under the manipulation of the United States, the forcible adoption last January of the unfair ‘sanctions resolution’ was conducted by making an issue of our legitimate satellite launch,” Pak said.
He was referring to North Korea’s December launch of a long-range rocket that was widely seen as an intercontinental-ballistic-missile test. Though the rocket firing was successful, the North is not yet viewed as possessing a credible nuclear-armed ballistic missile.
The Security Council responded to the launch by expanding sanctions against Pyongyang. After North Korea carried out its third nuclear test in February, the council in March upped sanctions again, this time aimed squarely at curbing the Kim Jong Un regime’s access to hard foreign currency.
Pyongyang’s annual U.N. address offered nothing new to the Western foreign-policy community, U.S.-based analysts said.
“Vice Minister Pak broke no new ground in his speech but instead trotted out the usual litany of North Korean accusations of U.S. ‘hostile policy,’” Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told Global Security Newswire in an e-mail. “Yet it is North Korea that repeatedly makes threats of nuclear annihilation, raises tension on the Korean Peninsula, and attacks its neighbors.”
Pak, in New York, also took aim at the Security Council for approving a plan to eliminate all of Syria’s chemical weapons. North Korea is understood to hold a sizable and varied chemical arsenal and has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, which forbids their usage.
“What is unfolding in Syria in the form of infringements of its sovereignty and territorial integrity further breaching peace and stability, should not be allowed in any case,” said the vice foreign minister, who addressed the General Assembly last year.
Pak did not discuss his government’s atomic weapons program or renew Pyongyang’s insistence that it has the right to possess nuclear arms.
He did call for global negotiations to “commence without further delay” on developing a legal framework for providing negative security assurances to non-nuclear weapon holders that they would never be threatened with attack by nations possessing such armaments.
Pyongyang has said it is willing to return to regional aid-for-denuclearization negotiations but only if there are no preconditions placed upon it.
Sung-yoon Lee, an assistant professor of Korean Studies at Tufts University, said Pyongyang uses the same rhetoric in its yearly U.N. speeches for both domestic propaganda purposes and in an attempt to gain sympathy from certain U.N. members states, who themselves perceive unwarranted aggressiveness in U.S. foreign-policy actions.
“It’s in North Korea’s interests to repeat itself, blame the U.S. for a lot of things,” Lee said. “It’s not completely a loss of futility because a lot of these [U.N. member states] would nod in agreement.”