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North Korea denies it proposed end to nuclear tests

Reports that stated Pyongyang would be willing to stop tests if the United States suspended drills aren’t true, a North Korean official said.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea denies it proposed end to nuclear tests
North Korea denied media reports its foreign minister had proposed an end to nuclear testing. File Photo by KCNA

BEIJING, April 26 (UPI) -- A North Korean spokesman said Pyongyang wouldn't stop testing nuclear weapons, even if the United States and South Korea ended joint military exercises held annually on the peninsula.

While en route to Pyongyang with Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Ri Tae Song told reporters in Beijing there are no conditions for which tests would be halted, Kyodo News and Yonhap reported.

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Over the weekend the foreign minister had reportedly requested the United States stop the drills in South Korea for a moratorium on North Korean nuclear tests.

U.S. President Barack Obama shrugged off the proposal Sunday and said Pyongyang would "have to do better than that," stressing the need for the North to use more appropriate lines of communication other than interviews with the media.

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But on Tuesday in Beijing, Ri not only said North Korea would unconditionally conduct future nuclear tests, he also said a U.S. media interview with Ri does not "fit the facts," South Korean television network KBS reported.

There's been a misunderstanding, Ri said.

"The United States already turned down a request to halt drills in exchange for an end to nuclear tests," Ri said, adding the offer is "no longer valid" because of the U.S. rejection.

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North Korea has been continuing tests of weapons, including short-range missiles in the run-up to its Seventh Party Congress, to be held in early May.

There is increasing concern Pyongyang could carry out a fifth nuclear test or another missile launch, Yonhap reported.

North Korea observed a military event on Monday, the 84th anniversary of the Korean People's Army, without much fanfare.

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Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said North Korea "appears to be strategically focusing on the preparation of the party congress."

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