Not that there was any doubt, but North Korea publicly rejected any interest in following Iran into denuclearization negotiations with the U.S. The North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that Pyongyang “is not interested at all in the dialogue to discuss the issue of making it freeze or dismantle its nukes unilaterally first [since its nuclear arsenal] is not a plaything to be put on the negotiating table.”
The regime’s recent statement is consistent with years of declaring the Six Party Talks “null and void” and dismissing any possibility of it living up to numerous previous pledges to denuclearize. Last year the National Defense Commission asserted that “[n]othing will be more foolish than trying to force the army and people of [North Korea] to lay down the treasured sword” of nuclear weapons.
Earlier this year, some interpreted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Day speech as showing regime interest in resuming dialogue with the U.S. and South Korea. But those hopes were dashed when Pyongyang subsequently declared that it would “no longer sit at the same table as the United States.”
Since then, the U.S. commanders of US Forces Korea, Pacific Command, and NORAD all stated that they think North Korea has the ability to put a nuclear weapon on an ICBM and shoot it at the U.S. homeland.
On July 22, South Korea announced that Pyongyang had completed a new, taller launch tower at its missile test site which would accommodate a longer-range missile than the rocket successfully test-fired in December 2012. After the South Korean navy dredged up the first two stages of the 2012 missile from the ocean floor, Minister of Defense Kim Kwan-jin assessed it had an estimated range of 10,000 km and could reach the United States.
Seoul speculates that Pyongyang might launch another missile to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Korea Workers Party on Oct. 10. Any launch of a North Korean ballistic missile would be a violation of numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions.
In May, Secretary of State John Kerry declared international intent to “increase the pressure and increase the potential of either sanctions or other means” to alter Kim Jong-un’s behavior. Similarly, the White House described the January 2015 executive order in response to North Korea’s hack of Sony Pictures and threats of violence against U.S. citizens as “a first step…this is certainly not the end.”
The Obama administration has not yet announced any subsequent measures or any human rights sanctions 17 months after the release of a U.N. Commission of Inquiry report which concluded that Pyongyang had committed human rights violations so egregious as to constitute “crimes against humanity.”