The United States and South Korea have resumed some military exercises just days ahead of a high-profile meeting focused on denuclearisation between USA secretary of state Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials.
Progress on ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs has slowed in the months since the Singapore summit in June between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, when the two leaders signed a general statement calling for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
South Korea and the United States will resume battalion-level marine exercises that have been suspended as part of efforts to help facilitate a detente with North Korea, Seoul military officials said.
In Washington last week, South Korea's defense minister said Washington and Seoul would make a decision by December on major joint military exercises for 2019.
As a latest sign of increasing frustration, the North's foreign ministry issued a statement on Friday threatening to resume building nuclear weapons unless U.S. ends sanctions against Pyongyang.
North Korea has warned it could revive a state policy aimed at strengthening its nuclear arsenal if the United States does not lift economic sanctions against the country.More news: Four things voters need to know before hitting the polls
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The two nations, however, have been at odds over ways to reach that goal, as North Korea has yet to take credible action to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
"With Kim's visit to South Korea also planned this year, North Korea appears to be dwelling long on the time of his Russian trip", Woo said.
Report: Under the renewed US sanctions, countries found to be buying crude oil or other commodities from Iran may lose access to the USA financial system and the right to do business with American entities. Over the weekend, Kim hosted President Miguel Diaz-Canel of Cuba - another country under U.S. sanctions - during a lavish visit in Pyongyang, where the two leaders vowed to boost their cooperation.
"The improvement of relations and sanctions are incompatible", said the foreign ministry statement, released under the name of the director of the foreign ministry's Institute for American Studies.
American officials have remained skeptical of Kim's commitment to give up the nuclear arsenal he has already amassed, however, and Washington says it won't support easing worldwide sanctions until more verified progress is made. And President Trump has made his position very clear: "No economic relief until we have achieved our ultimate objective", he said in an appearance on CBS News.