North Korea threatens to restart nuclear weapons programme

North Korea has warned it could revive its policy of building up its nuclear arsenal if the United States does not lift economic sanctions against the country.

In a statement, North Korea’s foreign ministry said the “improvement of relations and sanctions is incompatible”.

“The US thinks that its oft-repeated ‘sanctions and pressure’ leads to ‘denuclearisation’,” it said.

“We cannot help laughing at such a foolish idea,” it said.

North Korea said the lifting of US-led sanctions would be a direct response to Pyongyang’s “proactive and goodwill measures” – a reference to its unilateral suspension of nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and closure of a nuclear testing ground.

It said it could bring back its “pyongjin” policy of simultaneously advancing its nuclear force and economic development if the US failed to change its stance.

Destruction of North Korea's nuclear test site 1:57
Video: Sky News films nuclear site demolition

It is the first time Pyongyang has threatened to resume its nuclear weapons programme since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump met for the first time in June.

The summit in Singapore was described by critics as heavy on theatre but weak on substance.

Mr Kim requested a second meeting with Mr Trump in a letter in September.

The US president said secretary of state Mike Pompeo was working on the details, adding: “We will be doing that”.

Reacting to criticism that more promises should have been extracted from Mr Kim at the last summit, Mr Pompeo told NBC at the time: “We have our eyes wide open.

“There is a long way to go to get chairman Kim to live up to the commitment that he made to President Trump and, indeed, to the demands of the world in the UN Security Council resolutions to get him to fully denuclearise.”

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On Friday, Mr Pompeo said he planned to resume talks with North Korea on taking firmer steps towards denuclearisation and organising another summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim.

“A lot of work remains, but I’m confident that we will keep the economic pressure in place until such time as chairman Kim fulfils the commitment he made to President Trump back in June in Singapore,” he said.

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