US Politics

North Korea denies sanctions prompted peace push

President Donald Trump (left) and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un. Source: AAP

North Korea has rejected claims sanctions have forced it to the negotiating table with the United States and South Korea. The country claims they are responsible for the ‘peace offensive’.

North Korea has broken its silence on the diplomatic thaw with Washington and Seoul, saying it is driving the "peace offensive" and rejecting suggestions that sanctions forced it to the negotiating table.

The commentary from the state-run Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) came with a rapid rapprochement on the Korean peninsula underway, after a period of heightened tensions stoked by the missile and nuclear tests.

But as diplomats scurry to arrange two proposed summits - North-South talks followed by a face-to-face meet between President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un - the North's silence had raised concerns over its intentions.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, front right, meets South Korean National Security Director Chung Eui-yong, front left, in Pyongyang, North Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, front right, meets South Korean National Security Director Chung Eui-yong, front left, in Pyongyang, North Korea
AAP

The commentary in the North's official news agency KCNA late Tuesday did not directly mention the summits but noted the "dramatic atmosphere for reconciliation" with the South and "a sign of change" with the US.

But it said Pyongyang's overtures came from a position of strength, not from weakness, even as it confronts intense international pressure as well as biting economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme.

"The dialogue peace offensive of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) is an expression of self-confidence as it has acquired everything it desires," it said.

It also slammed hawks in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo for questioning the sincerity and motivation behind the North's willingness to step back from the brink.

"Such rubbish as 'result of sanctions and pressure'... spread by hostile forces is just as meaningless as a dog barking at the moon," it said, urging "prudence" for all parties involved.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, front right, shakes hands with South Korean National Security Director Chung Eui-yong.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, front right, shakes hands with South Korean National Security Director Chung Eui-yong.
AAP

"It is really an expression of small-mindedness for the riff-raffs to spoil the atmosphere and say this or that even before the parties concerned are given a chance to study the inner thoughts of the other side and are seated at a negotiating table," it said in typically colourful language.

Trump's announcement earlier this month that he was willing to meet with the North's young leader -after an invitation conveyed by envoys from the South - triggered a flurry of diplomatic activity.

The North's foreign minister Ri Yong Ho met his counterpart from Sweden, which represents Washington's interests in North Korea, in Stockholm over the weekend, with reports saying they discussed the release of three Americans detained in the North.

 President Moon Jae-in (3-R) speaks during a meeting, regarding the upcoming between North and South Korea, at his office in Seoul.
President Moon Jae-in (3-R) speaks during a meeting, regarding inter-Korea summit between North and South Korea, at his office in Seoul.
AAP

Choe Kang Il, a senior Pyongyang diplomat handling ties with the US, is currently in Finland for discussions with the retired former US ambassador to Seoul, Kathleen Stephens.

The South and the US announced Tuesday a plan to resume annual joint military exercises with its main drill shortened by a month - in an apparent conciliatory gesture over an event that infuriates the North.

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