A senior North Korean official contradicted President Donald Trump on Thursday, denying that his country had insisted on the removal of all sanctions in return for dismantling a key nuclear facility.
In a rare news conference addressing the reason why nuclear talks broke down in Hanoi early Thursday, North Korea’s minister of Foreign Affairs, Ri Yong-ho, added that his country would dismantle the facility if some U.S. sanctions are first lifted.
Story Continued Below
Ri asked the “U.S. to lift articles of sanctions that impede the civilian economy and the livelihood of our people,” and confirmed that his country would dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear material production facility “in the presence of U.S. experts.”
Trump during a news conference earlier Thursday said North Korea “wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety” in return for dismantling Yongbyon. Trump said he walked away from his talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un because of the request.
“They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that,” Trump said.
Trump noted that Yongbyon is just one part of North Korea’s nuclear program and that “there’s plenty left after that.”
“I felt that that particular … facility, while very big, it wasn’t enough to do what we were doing,” he added.
Without specifically mentioning Trump, Ri claimed that North Korea did not ask for all sanctions to be lifted.
“What we proposed was not the removal of all sanctions, but a partial removal,” Ri said, according to a live translator.
“If the U.S. removes partial sanctions … that hamper the civilian economy and the livelihood of our people, in particular, we will permanently and completely dismantle all the nuclear material production facilities” at Yongbyon, Ri said.