Even as North Koreans paid their obeisance to their country’s former leader Kim Jong Il on his seventh death anniversary, the country’s regime has warned the United States that the latest round of sanctions could "block the path to denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula forever".
The U.S. has slapped a round of sanctions on three top North Korean officials, after a report threw up a raft of human rights abuses.
In a statement carried by the North Korean news agency KCNA, the North Korean administration expressed "shock and indignation" at the new US sanctions. The statement accused the US state department of being "bent on bringing... relations back to the status of last year which was marked by exchanges of fire".
The latest North Korean statement said the US policy of "maximum pressure" would be its "greatest miscalculation" and that it should instead return to the confidence building that was hoped for following the leaders' summit in Singapore.
The commentary deliberately focused its criticism on the U.S. State Department and administration officials, not at US President Donald Trump, suggesting that Pyongyang remains hopeful of another summit.
The US has sanctioned current North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Un's right-hand man, Choe Ryong-hae, and two other top officials including security minister Jong Kyong-thaek and the country’s propaganda official Pak Kwang-ho.
U.S. State department spokesman Robert Palladino commenting on the developments, said, "Human rights abuses in North Korea remain among the worst in the world and include extrajudicial killings, forced labour, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence."
North Korea’s acidic commentary against the U.S. State Department comes as working-level talks between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korea's Kim Yong-chol were cancelled abruptly in November and have not been rescheduled. Pyongyang has reportedly continued work on its ballistic missiles capability.
There is also no development on the denuclearization front as North Korea has repeatedly blocked any effort to get it to commit to a timeline for giving up its nuclear weapons.
However, there is some progress in the North Korea-South Korea dialogue as the leaders of the two countries have met multiple times this year and relations seem to be historically improved.