♦ Pyongyang calls for lifting of sanctions
♦ S Korea seeks smaller military drills with US
North Korea said yesterday its commitment to denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula was bound up with a "complete removal of US nuclear threats".
Following a rapid diplomatic rapprochement this year, the North's leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump signed a vaguely-worded statement in Singapore in June, agreeing to work towards the "denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".
But the two countries have since disagreed on what it means, causing follow-up negotiations to stall.
Now Pyongyang is demanding sanctions relief and has condemned US insistence on its nuclear disarmament as "gangster-like", while Washington is pushing to maintain the measures against the North until its "final, fully verified denuclearisation".
Yesterday's commentary released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) asserted that the commitment was a mutual rather than unilateral undertaking.
"It must be clearly understood that the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula means the removal of all nuclear threats -- not only those from the North and the South but those aiming at the Korean peninsula from surrounding areas as well", it said.
It urged the US to give up the "delusion" of forcing the North to give up its nuclear arsenal "unilaterally" through "pressure and coercion".
It also called for the lifting of sanctions, describing it as a "touchstone" in determining whether the US was committed to implementing the Singapore agreement.
A second summit between Trump and Kim -- who exchanged personal insults and threats of war throughout 2017 -- is expected to take place next year, reported AFP.
The US leader faces criticism over the planned talks since North Korea has taken few concrete steps to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
Meanwhile, the defence ministry said yesterday South Korea wants to hold smaller joint military drills with the United States next year, scaling back larger exercises as part of an effort to boost nuclear diplomacy with North Korea, reported Reuters.
The allies have suspended a number of combined military exercises this year as tensions on the Korean peninsula eased and Washington began talks to dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear programme.