On Friday, a senior North Korean official compared the United States to a “mentally retarded patient.”
Ri Tong-il, the North’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, gave one of North Korea’s increasingly frequent UN press conferences on Friday.
The primary purpose of the press conference appears to have been to charge the UN Security Council (UNSC) as being controlled by the U.S. and its allies. In particular, Ri said that he had requested an emergency meeting with the UN Security Council on July 21 to discuss joint U.S.-South Korea military drills, which Pyongyang claims are actually preparations for an attack against it. So far, Ri said he has not received a response from the UNSC.
“If the Security Council turns away from this emergency meeting, it will only expose itself as a UN body which has lost its principles, impartiality and responsibility,” Ri said at the UNSC meeting, according to the New York Times. The U.S. is a permanent, veto-wielding member of the UNSC, and South Korea is currently a rotating member of the body.
However, during the hour long press conference, Ri went on to claim that the U.S. is trying to subvert inter-Korean talks, in order to make South Korea dependent on it. While this is a common accusation from the North, Ri went on to say that this behavior “is reminding us of the historical lasting symptom of a mentally retarded patient.”
North Korea also used the press conference to justify its acquisition of nuclear weapons, along with its recent testing of missiles. When questioned about its nuclear arms, Ri said, “No country in the world has been living like the D.P.R.K., under serious threats to its existence, sovereignty, survival.” He added: “That’s why the D.P.R.K. went with the option to go with a nuclear deterrent, to protect our people.”
Regarding North Korea’s recent spat of missile tests, Ri said, “It is quite natural, more than justifiable, because this is in response to the grave situation created by the large-scale joint military exercises…. The war danger is being increased.” He vowed that the tests would continue.
Although North Korea regularly tests artillery and missiles, it has done so at an unprecedented rate this year.
It’s unclear the exact aims the North hoped to achieve with the press conference. Some believe North Korea is trying to take provocative actions in order to retain the world’s attention amidst a series of crises in places like the Ukraine, Syria and Iraq. There have also been multiple signs that the states involved in the six-party talks– the U.S., China, South Korea, North Korea, Japan and Russia– are involved in discussions about restarting them. From the outside it appears the U.S. is the most resistant to restarting the talks over North Korea’s nuclear program until Pyongyang takes serious actions to demonstrate its seriousness about denuclearization.