The Iran Deal: Official North Korean Reaction
US Special Envoy for Six-Party Talks Syd Seiler is currently in the region, shuttling once again to Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo to take the pulse of the long-flatlined talks. The message has been clear: that the Iran deal shows a willingness on the part of the US to negotiate with adversaries. In several press briefings, Syler has used the word “flexibility,” presumably referring to an adjustment in the prior actions the US had been demanding for a restart of the talks. North Korea has claimed--disingenuously—that these actions require that the country disarm prior to talks.
But this offer of flexibility has been on the table for months now, and the North Koreans are having none of it. Nor are they interested in any Iran parallels. In an unusual move, the North Korean Ambassador to China Ji Jae-ryong held a press conference earlier in the week to reiterate a message that had been contained in July 21 Foreign Ministry statement; we reproduce the text in full below.
There is one small ambiguity: the statement says that “the DPRK is not interested at all in the dialogue to discuss the issue of making it freeze or dismantle its nukes unilaterally first.” Would this mean that North Korea would be interested in negotiations if there were no up front actions? And there is always reiteration of the lure that if the US would reverse its hostile policy—including exercises—that Pyongyang would rethink.
But this seems like fishing for a silver lining. The central thrust of the statement is to congratulate the Iranians but to reassert the byungjin line: that North Korea requires nuclear weapons to deter the United States, that it is now a nuclear weapons state and “has interests” as such.
The pushback on the Iran deal and the Six Party Talks was also accompanied by posturing on the satellite/missile front. In tightly choreographed press conferences, the North Korean ambassadors to Russia, China and the UN all issued statements on North Korea's right to launch satellites (NKNews here). The ambassador to the UN also confirmed construction of a new launch site in Tongchang-ni.
Tim Brown and Jack Liu have a new analysis of the launch site at Sohae at 38North. Although they find no evidence that a launch is imminent, construction to modify the Sohae gantry for space launch vehicles (SLVs) has been completed and supporting equipment for a possible engine test is in place; Yonhap had reported that a test had in fact taken place. The speculation: that one of the many anniversaries the regime uses to mobilize public support and anti-Americanism could be the occasion for a launch.
Unless the Chinese can pull some sort of miracle out of the hat by forcing Kim Jong Un to change course, it is hard to see that anything the US is likely to do will move the nuclear talks forward. While a fourth test may be too risky given recent efforts to improve relations with China, the rhetoric certainly suggests a willingness to push ahead on the missile front.
FM Spokesman Statement on Iran Negotiations (KCNA, July 21)
The U.S. is talking this and that over the nuclear issue of the DPRK in the wake of the conclusion of the agreement on the nuclear issue of Iran.
A spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State said on July 14 that "Washington is ready for dialogue with Pyongyang if discussion is made on the nuclear issue of north Korea and it helps put it on a concrete and full-fledge stage of nuclear disarmament."
A U.S. under secretary of State uttered on July 16 that it was his hope that the conclusion of the agreement with Iran would help the DPRK rethink of its nuclear issue.
Iran's nuclear agreement is the achievement made by its protracted efforts to have its independent right to nuclear activities recognized and sanctions lifted.
But the situation of the DPRK is quite different from it.
The DPRK is the nuclear weapons state both in name and reality and it has interests as a nuclear weapons state.
The DPRK is not interested at all in the dialogue to discuss the issue of making it freeze or dismantle its nukes unilaterally first.
The nuclear deterrence of the DPRK is not a plaything to be put on the negotiating table as it is the essential means to protect its sovereignty and vital rights from the U.S. nuclear threat and hostile policy which have lasted for more than half a century.
It is illogical to compare Iran's nuclear agreement with the situation of the DPRK which is exposed to constant provocative military hostile acts and the biggest nuclear threat of the U.S. including its ceaseless large-scale joint military exercises.
The DPRK remains unchanged in the mission of its nuclear force as long as the U.S. continues pursuing its hostile policy toward the former.