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N. Korea slams US for sanctions on officials

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Pyongyang warns move will block path to denuclearisation forever

SEOUL North Korea has condemned the US over its latest sanctions measures, warning that Washington's approach could "block the path to denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula forever".

After a diplomatic rapprochement this year that culminated in the Singapore summit in June between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump, progress has stalled in talks on Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal.

In Singapore, the two men signed a vaguely worded statement on denuclearisation but have since disagreed on what it means.

Now Pyongyang is demanding sanctions relief and condemning US insistence on its nuclear disarmament as "gangster-like".

Washington is pushing to maintain the measures against the North until its "final, fully verified denuclearisation".

Washington last week added three North Korean officials to those subject to sanctions over human rights abuses, including Mr Choe Ryong Hae, considered a right-hand man to Mr Kim.

In a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency, the North said Mr Trump had repeatedly expressed his desire to improve relations with Pyongyang, but the US State Department was "bent on bringing the Democratic People's Republic of Korea-US relations back to the status of last year, which was marked by exchanges of fire".

In recent months, US politicians have "almost every day slandered the DPRK out of sheer malice", added the statement by the policy research director of North Korea's Foreign Ministry's Institute for American Studies.

Using sanctions and pressure "to drive us into giving up nuclear weapons" would be the "greatest miscalculation", it added, and would "block the path to denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula forever".

A second summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim is expected to be held next year, with Mr Trump facing criticism over the planned talks since North Korea has taken few concrete steps to abandon its missile programmes.Pyongyang has long said it needs the weapons to deter a possible US invasion.

But yesterday, its nuclear assets were conspicuous by their absence from the coverage of the seventh death anniversary of Mr Kim's father and predecessor, Mr Kim Jong Il. - AFP

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