BEIJING — North Korea said Tuesday that it is “not interested” in a nuclear deal like the one that Iran forged with world powers last week, saying that its situation was “quite different” from Tehran’s.
Since that deal — which would limit Iran’s nuclear weapons capacity in exchange for sanctions relief — was brokered, some policymakers and analysts have been asking whether Washington could forge a similar pact with Pyongyang, which has conducted three nuclear tests and is refusing to discuss denuclearization.
North Korea answered that question Tuesday in an unequivocal statement from a Foreign Ministry spokesman.
“The situation of the DPRK is quite different from [that of Iran],” the spokesman said, using North Korea’s official abbreviation, according to a report from the Korean Central News Agency.
“The DPRK is not interested at all in the dialogue to discuss the issue of making it freeze or dismantle its nukes unilaterally first,” he said, adding that it was “illogical” to compare the two countries because only North Korea was under constant U.S. military threat.
Pyongyang has strongly objected to joint drills conducted annually in South Korea by the U.S. and South Korean militaries, viewing them as preparation for an invasion.
“The DPRK remains unchanged in the mission of its nuclear force as long as the U.S. continues pursuing its hostile policy toward the former,” the spokesman said.
Multilateral talks to try to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program collapsed in 2009, and new efforts ground to a halt three years ago after Pyongyang announced plans for a new satellite launch six weeks after agreeing to a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests. A year later, it detonated its third nuclear device.
Diplomats from the United States and South Korea in particular have been trying to persuade North Korea to return to talks, but the regime of Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader since late 2011, has shown no interest in any sort of discussions and in fact has been trying to take the nuclear issue off the table by talking to countries less likely to raise it.
In the aftermath of the Iran deal, North Korea’s erstwhile negotiating counterparts voiced hope that Pyongyang would take a leaf from Tehran’s book.
Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, said at a news conference last week that the Iran deal “might give North Korea second thoughts about the very dangerous path that it is currently pursuing.”
China also said the Iran deal could serve as a “positive reference” for negotiations with North Korea. The Iran deal showed that a complicated nuclear situation could be solved, “however difficult the problem,” said Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
That deal aims to reduce Iran’s potential to create a nuclear weapon by reducing its supplies of low-enriched uranium and the number of centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium to weapons grade. In return, Iran will get relief from the sanctions that have crippled its economy, sharply curtailed its ability to trade with the outside world and driven up prices of everyday goods for ordinary citizens.
North Korea is also under sanctions, but the regime has proved relatively impervious to them because of its ability to import almost anything through China.
Furthermore, Kim, who is believed to be in his early 30s, has made it clear that he has no interest in talking, said one senior U.S. official. “This kid is not interested in running the country in a normal way,” he said. “He’s not interested in diplomacy, and he’s not interested in engagement. He’s got no plan.”