NEW YORK, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- North Korea Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho called for an end to "decades-long mistrust" between the Kim Jong Un regime and the United States in remarks before the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday -- while calling for the repeal of economic sanctions, and warning U.S. opponents of Trump's engagement with Kim.
Ri, who last year said the North could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean as tensions escalated with the United States, delivered a speech that summarized key developments on the Korean Peninsula, while crediting the North Korean leader for progress.
"Comrade Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted energetic summit-level diplomatic activities with a firm determination to turn the Korean Peninsula into a land of peace, free of both nuclear weapons and nuclear threats," Ri said, as delegates from the United States and South Korea took notes.
He added Kim "made important breakthroughs in improving North-South relations and [North Korea]-U.S. relations, a turning point for the dramatic easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula."
But Ri also reminded the audience of Pyongyang's confidence in its military power, even as he advocated for reciprocal steps toward denuclearization.
"Since we have sufficiently consolidated national defense capabilities and war deterrence to cope with the nuclear threats against [us] that have lasted over several decades, concentrating all efforts on economic construction has come up to us as a historic task," Ri said through an interpreter. "There will be no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first."
The foreign minister, who met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in what Pompeo described as a "very positive" meeting ahead of his planned trip to Pyongyang in October, said Kim's "new policy line" is "economic construction."
"Economic reform is the right political choice in improving the people's life. The international society should encourage our efforts in response to our bold measures toward durable peace on the Korean Peninsula," Ri said.
Ri did not elaborate on how the new policy differed from existing North Korea policies that also stress economic development.
International sanctions, and the United States' continued support of economic embargoes against the North is a source of mistrust, the North Korean diplomat added, even as he said mistrust between Trump and Kim has been sufficiently removed to realize the joint statement between the two leaders in Singapore.
"The continued sanctions is deepening mistrust, it is the reason behind the recent deadlock," Ri said. "The perception sanctions will bring us to our knees is a pipe dream of the people who are ignorant about us."
Ri, who last year warned Trump of consequences "far beyond his words," eschewed criticism of the president, and instead targeted the U.S. "domestic opposition," that "slanders [North Korea] for the sole purpose of attacking their opponent."
"It is not helpful at all," Ri said.
The North Korean official did not credit South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who actively engaged Trump and Kim when talks stalled and when the first summit was canceled in the spring.
The key to peace, Ri said, is to implement the joint statement between Washington and Pyongyang signed in Singapore.
"The current trend of detente will turn into durable peace and complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Ri said. "The Korean Peninsula, the hottest spot in the globe will become the cradle of peace and prosperity that contributes to security in Asia and the rest of the world."
Trump is planning to hold a second summit with Kim.