Barack Obama dismisses North Korea proposal on halting nuke tests

A day after North Korea's foreign minister said that his country is ready to halt its nuclear tests if the United States suspends its annual military exercises with South Korea, President Barack Obama said on Sunday that Washington isn't taking the proposal seriously and Pyongyang would "have to do better than that."

New York: A day after North Korea's foreign minister said that his country is ready to halt its nuclear tests if the United States suspends its annual military exercises with South Korea, President Barack Obama said on Sunday that Washington isn't taking the proposal seriously and Pyongyang would "have to do better than that."

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, interviewed yesterday by the AP, also defended his country's right to maintain a nuclear deterrent and warned that Pyongyang won't be cowed by international sanctions. And for those waiting for the North's regime to collapse, he had this to say: Don't hold your breath.

"Stop the nuclear war exercises in the Korean Peninsula, then we should also cease our nuclear tests," he said in his first interview yesterday with a Western news organization. Obama dismissed North Korea's latest overture at a news conference today with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hannover, Germany.

"We don't take seriously a promise to simply halt until the next time they decide to do a test these kinds of activities," Obama said. "What we've said consistently ... Is that if North Korea shows seriousness in denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, then we'll be prepared to enter into some serious conversations with them about reducing tensions and our approach to protecting our allies in the region. But that's not something that happens based on a press release in the wake of a series of provocative behaviors. They're going to have to do better than that."

Obama also said that until North Korea does better, as he put it, the US will continue to "emphasise our work with the Republic of Korea and Japan and our missile defense mechanisms to ensure that we're keeping the American people safe and we're keeping our allies safe."

Ri's interview with the AP came just hours after North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine in its latest show of defiance as this year's US-South Korea exercises wind down. He referred to the launch in the context of current tensions caused by the military exercises. "The escalation of this military exercise level has reached its top level. And I think it's not bad as the other side is going for the climax why not us, too, to that level as well?"

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