United States envoy on North Korea visits border village amid stalemate

N. Korea: We Denuclearize When US Removes Its Threat

SEOUL - North Korea's commitment to the "denuclearization of the Korean peninsula" also includes "completely eliminating the USA nuclear threat to Korea", North Korean state media said on Thursday.

"The statement carried by North Korea's official Korea Central News Agency is a particularly blunt indication that the two countries are still far apart on their ideas of what "denuclearization" means on the Korean Peninsula".

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to work towards denuclearisation at his landmark summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore in June but the two sides have since made little progress. Relations between the Koreas have improved this year, with the North entering disarmament talks with a vague promise to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Biegun is scheduled to hold a one-on-one meeting with Lee on Thursday and to lead a session of a South Korea-US working group Friday.

The news comes as Pyongyang and Washington continue to face a deadlock in negotiations for removing sanctions on North Korea in exchange for an end to their shows of worldwide aggression.

And as US President Donald Trump has made clear, the spokesman said, "Sanctions relief will follow denuclearization".

Biegun said the United States came to have "greater confidence about the safety and security of Americans travelling to the DPRK" after North Korea in November released an American held for an alleged illegal entrance to the country.

The nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang stalled since the Trump-Kim meeting. Washington wants these to be inspected and dismantled before it will lift sanctions on Pyongyang, but North Korea insists that sanctions must be lifted first. However, none of those moves were verified by outsiders, and most experts say they fall short as material steps toward denuclearization. "We are just asking the United States to put an end to its hostile policies (on North Korea) and remove the unjust sanctions, things it can do even without a snap of a finger".

The North Korean statement came a day after Stephen Biegun, the Trump's administration's special envoy on North Korea, told reporters in South Korea that Washington was reviewing easing travel restrictions on North Korea to facilitate humanitarian shipments to help resolve the impasse in nuclear negotiations.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, and Kim Yong-chol, a North Korean senior ruling party official and former intelligence chief, in July.

The two Koreas plan to hold the ceremony at Panmun Station in the North's border town of Kaesong on December 26, amid concerns that the project could undermine global sanctions imposed on the communist state.

"Measures, such as an end to the hostile policy toward North Korea and the lifting of unfair sanctions, are things the USA can do without lifting a finger, if they want to", the report said.

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