North Koreans issue nuclear threat ahead of high-level talks with US

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The Korean Marine Exchange Program, relatively small-scale maneuvers in which some 500 American and South Korean troops participate, was among the training drills that President Donald Trump indefinitely suspended in June after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. It was the first time the North said it could potentially resume weapons tests and other development activities since Kim signaled a new state policy in April.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he is resuming denuclearization talks with North Korea this week in NY, meeting with Pyongyang's second in command, Kim Yong Chol.

Negotiations over the North's nuclear program have largely stalled, with Pyongyang demanding sanctions relief after halting weapons tests and Washington repeatedly saying the restrictions would remain in place until North Korea is nuclear free.

But Pompeo dismissed the warning, saying, "I'm not anxious about that".

"The US thinks that its oft-repeated "sanctions and pressure" lead to 'denuclearisation.' We can not help laughing at such a foolish idea".

However, the North has been playing hardball since the summits, insisting that sanctions should be lifted before any progress in nuclear talks, which fueled doubts about whether Kim would ever deal away a nuclear program he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.

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"The improvement of relations and sanctions are incompatible", a foreign ministry official said in a statement released through state-run KCNA news agency.

Moon has described inter-Korean engagement as crucial to resolving the nuclear standoff.

As the United States and North Korea prepare for another round of high-level talks this week, Pyongyang's increasingly heated rhetoric has analysts anxious that the stalemate between the two sides could lead to a breakdown in negotiations.

In Washington last week, South Korea's defence minister said the two countries would decide by December on major joint military exercises for 2019.

But South Korea's enthusiasm for engagement with its rival has also created discomfort in the United States amid growing concerns that the North is dragging its feet with its promise to denuclearize.

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