Flashpoints | Security | East Asia

Authoritative North Korean Statement Warns US of ‘Greater Threat’ If Talks Fail

In a rare move, the statement was attributed to a spokesman for the powerful State Affairs Commission of North Korea.

Ankit Panda
Authoritative North Korean Statement Warns US of ‘Greater Threat’ If Talks Fail
Credit: Illustration by Catherine Putz

On Wednesday, North Korea’s State Affairs Commission, one of the most prominent institutions of state and one chaired by leader Kim Jong Un, released a statement discussing the state of relations with the United States. The statement, attributed to a spokesman for the Commission, warned the United States of a “greater threat” in the new year should no deal materialize between Pyongyang and Washington by the end of the year.

The statement, which the Korean Central News Agency released, repeated a warning against the United States and South Korea’s decision to carry on with a modified version of aerial military exercises.

“Despite our repeated warnings, the U.S. and the south Korean side decided to push ahead with the military drill hostile to the DPRK at the most sensitive time,” the statement said. “This has further enraged our people, making it hard for them to keep the patience they have so far exercised.”

While many North Korean statements since the failed February Hanoi summit have criticized South Korea for military activities with the United States, this statement criticized the United States directly.

“The U.S. Defense Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff, asserting that they would adjust the scale of the projected U.S.-south joint air drill and not stage it in consideration of north Korea’s anger, openly said now is just the time to launch a joint drill of such type and it is aimed to gird itself for going into a war even tonight,” the statement noted. North Korea bristles at military exercises of all scales conducted by South Korea and the United States, viewing them as inherently hostile.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

“The U.S. is not accepting with due consideration the year-end time limit that we set out of great patience and magnanimity,” referring to an April warning from Kim Jong Un for the United States to change its policy toward negotiations with North Korea. Kim called on the United States to take a “bold decision” and to change its insistence of full denuclearization for any sanctions relief.

Wednesday’s statement reiterated steps that North Korea has taken to date, which it believes should entitle it to concessions from the United States. “We, without being given anything, gave things the U.S. president can brag about but the U.S. side has not yet taken any corresponding step,” the statement said in a rare reference to President Trump. “Now, betrayal is only what we feel from the U.S. side.”

“We have so far tried hard to recognize the U.S. as our dialogue partner, halted different actions that the U.S. was concerned about, and have taken all possible confidence-building measures, true to its commitment to stop military actions irritating and antagonizing the dialogue partner during the goodwill dialogue between the DPRK and the U.S.,” Wednesday’s statement underscored.

The attribution of the statement to the State Affairs Commission is designed to indicate a high level of authoritativeness, indicating that this message likely comes directly from Kim Jong Un. Despite difficulties in negotiations, Kim had insulated his personal relationship with U.S. President Donald J. Trump from the ups and downs of broader U.S.-North Korea diplomacy.

In 2016, the State Affairs Commission supplanted the previously prominent National Defense Commission in North Korean state organization.