SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Tuesday that it’s not interested in an Iran-type nuclear disarmament deal, saying it won’t abandon its atomic weapons as long as the United States maintains hostile policies toward the country.
The North’s nuclear deterrent is “not a plaything to be put on the negotiating table,” an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. It was the country’s first official response to the Iran nuclear accord reached earlier this month.
North Korea’s nuclear program is a major regional concern, with the country having conducted atomic weapons tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013. International nuclear disarmament talks have been stalled since early 2009, and outside analysts believe the North has built a small but growing nuclear bomb arsenal.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman said North Korea is different from Iran because it already has nuclear weapons. He said the North faces constant military and nuclear threats from the U.S., citing its regular military exercises with South Korea.
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North Korea “is not interested at all in the dialogue to discuss the issue of making it freeze or dismantle its nukes unilaterally first,” he said, adding that the North “remains unchanged in the mission of its nuclear force as long as the U.S. continues pursuing its hostile policy toward” the country.
The U.S. stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea as deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Under the Iranian nuclear deal reached by Tehran, Washington and others, Iran’s nuclear program will be curbed for a decade in exchange for potentially hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of relief from international sanctions. Many key penalties on the Iranian economy, such as those related to the energy and financial sectors, could be lifted by the end of the year.