Fresh tension as North Korea says US ‘hell-bent’ on hostility

Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump met last Sunday at the border. Picture: Getty
Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump met last Sunday at the border. Picture: Getty
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North Korea has accused Washington of talking about dialogue but being “more and more hell bent” on hostile acts – just days after the US and North Korean leaders held a historic third meeting.

A press statement from Pyongyang’s UN Mission pointed a finger at US efforts to exert “overt pressure” and have the world’s nations implement UN sanctions.

First, it said, the US and 23 other countries sent a letter to the UN Security Council committee monitoring sanctions on North Korea demanding urgent action “under the absurd pretext of ‘excess in the amount of refined petroleum imported’”.

The United States and the other countries accused North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), of violating UN sanctions by importing far more than the annual limit of 500,000 barrels of refined petroleum products, which are key for its economy.

Last month Russia and China blocked the sanctions committee from declaring that Pyongyang breached the annual import limit.

North Korea’s UN Mission said the United States, Britain, France and Germany then circulated a joint letter to all UN member states on 29 June “calling for repatriation of the DPRK workers abroad, thus inciting an atmosphere of sanctions and pressure against the DPRK”.

That day, US President Donald Trump issued an unprecedented invitation to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas. Mr Kim accepted, and at their Sunday meeting Mr Trump became the first sitting US president to set foot in North Korea when he crossed the demarcation line.

The pair agreed at the meeting to restart negotiations designed to denuclearise the Korean peninsula. North Korea’s state media described their meeting as “an amazing event”.

But there was nothing positive in Wednesday’s statement from North Korea’s UN Mission, which made no mention of nuclear talks, focusing instead on sanctions.

The row came as an Australian student released after a week in detention in North Korea said that he was feeling “very good” as he arrived in Beijing.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison announced to Parliament that Alek Sigley, 29, had been released following intervention from Swedish diplomats on Wednesday.

Mr Sigley looked relaxed when he arrived at Beijing airport. He did not respond to reporters’ questions about what had happened to him in Pyongyang.

“I’m OK, I’m OK, I’m good. I’m very good,” he said.

The Pyongyang Yniversity student and tour guide had been out of contact with family and friends in Japan and Australia since Tuesday last week.

He had been active on social media about his experiences in North Korea and the extraordinary freedom he had been allowed as one of the few foreign students living in Pyongyang.