SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s foreign minister on Friday called the Group of Seven wealthy democracies a “tool for ensuring the U.S. hegemony” as she lambasted the group’s recent call for the North’s denuclearization.
The top diplomats from G-7 nations, who met recently in Japan, had jointly condemned the North’s recent ballistic missile tests and reiterated their commitment to the goal of North Korea’s complete abandonment of its nuclear weapons. Their communique was prepared as a template for leaders at the G-7 summit next month in Hiroshima, where North Korea’s nuclear program will likely be discussed again.
North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said her country will take unspecified “strong counteraction” if G-7 countries — the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Italy and the European Union — show “any behavioral attempt” to infringe upon the fundamental interests of North Korea.
“G7, a closed group of a handful of egoistic countries, does not represent the just international community but serves as a political tool for ensuring the U.S. hegemony,” Choe said in a statement carried by North Korean state media.
Choe said the G-7 communique “malignantly” raised the North’s legitimate exercise of its sovereignty.
North Korea has steadfastly argued it was forced to develop nuclear weapons because of U.S. nuclear threats against it. It has said the United States’ regular military drills with South Korea are a rehearsal for invasion, though U.S. and South Korean officials have said their drills are defensive and they have no intentions of attacking the North.
North Korea has test-fired about 100 missiles since the start of last year in the name of responding to U.S. military training with South Korea. But many experts say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un likely uses his rivals’ military drills as a pretext to advance his weapons programs, cement his domestic leadership and be recognized as a legitimate nuclear state to get international sanctions on the North lifted.
North Korea has been hit with 11 rounds of U.N. sanctions because of its past nuclear and ballistic missile tests banned by U.N. Security Council resolutions. Kim has previously said those sanctions “stifles” North Korea’s economy.
The G-7 foreign ministers in their communique Tuesday said North Korea will never have the status of a nuclear-weapons state under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
The treaty sought to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons beyond the five original armed powers — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France. It requires non-nuclear signatory nations to not pursue atomic weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five powers to move toward nuclear disarmament and to guarantee non-nuclear states’ access to peaceful nuclear technology for producing energy.
Choe also said the North’s position as a nuclear weapons state “will remain as an undeniable and stark reality.” She said North Korea is free from any of the treaty’s obligations because it withdrew from the treaty 20 years ago.
North Korea joined the NPT in 1985 but announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2003, citing what it called U.S. aggression. Since 2006, North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests and a slew of other weapons tests to develop nuclear-tipped missiles designed to attack the U.S. and South Korea.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry said later Friday that North Korea must halt its threats against neighbors and pay heed to international concerns about its “reckless” nuclear and missile programs. Deputy spokesperson Lee Hyojung told reporters that North Korea cannot earn what it wants from its nuclear program so it must not insist on “a wrong path.”
Kim said earlier this week his country has built its first military spy satellite that will be launched at an unspecified date. Last week, North Korea test-launched a solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.
North Korea is expected to perform more weapons tests as the United States and South Korea continue their joint aerial exercise into next week.