North Korea spurned harsh new U.N. sanctions Monday and threatened to defend itself with nuclear weapons if necessary, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to negotiate with North Korea. There was no sign at a major Asian security conference here that the sanctions hailed by President Trump as a foreign policy achievement would succeed where past efforts have failed in persuading the country to give up its nuclear weapons.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told diplomats that his country will never negotiate away what he called a rational "strategic option" against the threat of attack from the United States.
He dismissed the U.N. Security Council sanctions approved on Saturday as illegal, appearing to rule out talks that the Trump administration, in a diplomatic partnership with China and Russia, is offering North Korea as a way out of its economic and diplomatic pariah status.
"The best signal that North Korea could send that they're prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches," Tillerson told reporters Monday at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathering.
China is urging Kim to consider negotiations, and also worked alongside the United States to develop the new U.N. sanctions. Days before the unanimous Security Council vote, Tillerson had made a point of saying that the United States does not consider North Korea its enemy and does not seek to invade or unseat Kim. Those reassurances were meant to encourage North Korea to meet at the bargaining table.
In the printed version of his speech, Ri said Pyongyang will use nuclear weapons only against the United States or any other country that might join it in military action against North Korea.
North Korea "will make the U.S. pay dearly for all the heinous crimes it commits against the state and people of this country," the statement said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said he told Ri that North Korea should abide by U.N. prohibitions against missile and nuclear testing. But he also said that sanctions, while needed, "are not the final goal," and he called for dialogue. Wang urged the United States and South Korea, as well as the North, not to increase tensions, saying the situation already is at a "critical point."