Through a state-run newspaper, the government of North Korea has indicated that it will not denuclearize until the U.S. "nuclear threat" is eliminated.
What did North Korea say?
A commentary from the Korean Central News Agency laid out the government's position on denuclearization:
The proper definition of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is completely eliminating the American nuclear threat to North Korea before eliminating our nuclear capability.
It went on to say:
When talking about the Korean peninsula, it encompasses not only our republic's territory but also South Korea where the American nuclear weapons and armed forces for invasion are spread out. When talking about denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, [the United States] needs to know that it means eliminating all nuclear threat factors.
While the United States has halted large-scale joint military exercises with South Korea, there is no indication that the Trump administration would agree to remove U.S. troops from South Korea.
This comes less than a week after an editorial published in the same state-run news outlet blamed U.S. sanctions on North Korea for slowing down denuclearization talks. "[A]dded sanctions pressure will block the path to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula forever — a result desired by no one," it warned.
In a state like North Korea, where the media has no freedom and everyone in the news industry must act in compliance with the state, opinions featured in state-run news outlets are often considered to be the official opinion of the government.
What does this mean for peace talks?
During their June 12 summit in Singapore, President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un signed a declaration that read:
President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
However, since that time multiple reports from news agencies and the United Nations have indicated that North Korea has been continuing to develop its nuclear program, despite promises to the United States. On Dec. 4, national security adviser John Bolton admitted that the Kim regime had "not lived up to the commitments so far."
On Dec. 14, Trump tweeted that negotiations with North Korea were "doing just fine" and that he was "in no hurry" because Kim saw the "wonderful potential for great economic success" that would come from such a deal.
If Kim continues to resist giving up his nuclear program, this would be the seventh time that the North Korean regime has agreed to denuclearize and then not followed through. The other six were in 1985, 1992, 1994, 2005, 2007, and 2012.