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NKorea: Might Lift Weapons Moratorium  07/16 06:11

   North Korea on Tuesday suggested it might call off its 20-month suspension 
of nuclear and missile tests because of summertime U.S.-South Korean military 
drills that the North calls preparation for an eventual invasion.

   PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- North Korea on Tuesday suggested it might 
call off its 20-month suspension of nuclear and missile tests because of 
summertime U.S.-South Korean military drills that the North calls preparation 
for an eventual invasion.

   The statement by the North's Foreign Ministry comes amid a general deadlock 
in nuclear talks, but after an extraordinary meeting of the U.S. and North 
Korean leaders at the Korean border raised hopes that negotiations on the 
North's growing nuclear and missile arsenal would soon resume.

   The statement serves as a reminder of North Korea's longstanding antipathy 
toward U.S.-South Korean military cooperation, which the allies call defensive 
and routine but the North sees as hostile. It also ramps up the pressure on the 
United States going into any new round of talks.

   At the dramatic June 30 meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and 
U.S. President Donald Trump, Trump crossed the border dividing the North and 
South, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korean 
territory. The leaders agreed in closed-door talks to resume nuclear diplomacy 
that had been stalled since their failed second summit in Vietnam in February.

   Despite the seeming mini-breakthrough, there has been little public progress 
since. North Korea wants widespread relief from harsh U.S.-led sanctions in 
return for pledging to give up parts of its weapons program, but the United 
States is demanding greater steps toward disarmament before it agrees to 
relinquish the leverage provided by the sanctions.

   Amid the diplomatic jockeying, North Korea said Tuesday that upcoming 
regular summertime U.S.-South Korean military drills are forcing it to rethink 
whether it should be committed to the promises it has made to the United 
States. It cited its moratorium on nuclear and missile tests and other steps 
aimed at improving ties with Washington.

   The statement said Trump vowed to suspend military drills with South Korea 
during his first and third meetings with Kim, but the planned summertime drills 
with Seoul and the deployment of weapons in the South show that Washington is 
not fulfilling that promise.

   "With the U.S. unilaterally reneging on its commitments, we are gradually 
losing our justifications to follow through on the commitments we made with the 
U.S. as well," said the statement, carried by the North's official Korean 
Central News Agency.

   It also said it is not bound by any legal documents to suspend its nuclear 
and missile tests.

   Since it conducted the third of its three intercontinental ballistic missile 
tests in November 2017, North Korea hasn't tested any long-range missiles 
potentially capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. After entering talks with 
Washington, Kim suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests, allowing Trump 
to boast of winning an achievement in his North Korea policy.

   Later Tuesday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry issued another statement 
warning that it will wait to see if the U.S.-South Korea military drills take 
place as planned to decide on the fate of North Korea-U.S. nuclear diplomacy.

   South Korea's National Intelligence Service, the country's main spy agency, 
told lawmakers in a private briefing Tuesday that there were no suspicious 
activities at North Korea's main long-range rocket launch site in the northwest 
and its missile research center on the outskirts of Pyongyang, according to Kim 
Min-ki, one of the lawmakers who attended the briefing.

   Outside experts say North Korea has suggested that it could further put off 
or cancel the resumption of nuclear talks if the United States doesn't offer to 
accept its calls for a slow, step-by-step nuclear disarmament process or 
widespread sanctions relief. But some analysts say North Korea will eventually 
return to the talks because Kim wants cooperation with outside powers as part 
of a plan to revive his country's troubled economy.


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