A North Korean official says his country plans to keep its nuclear program. He says the North Korean government could re-examine its policy toward the United States if U.S. officials continue raising human rights issues.
Jang Il Hun is North Korea's deputy ambassador to the United Nations. In a rare meeting with VOA on Monday, he spoke about the nuclear issue, human rights and his country's detention of three Americans.
Mr. Jang said North Korea already has declared itself a nuclear-armed state in its constitution. And he said his country has approved a new policy calling for expansion of nuclear weapons.
Years ago, North Korea promised to end its nuclear program. But later, it appeared to change its position on nuclear disarmament and carried out nuclear tests.
Recently, the North Korean government expressed an interest in re-starting long delayed negotiations on its nuclear activities. But Mr. Jang questioned the likelihood of such talks. "I do not see the point of having the six-party talks at this point," he said.
He accused the United States of leading criticism of his country's human rights records as a way to denounce the North Korean political system.
The North Korean official was asked whether his country would be willing to let a foreign investigator study human rights inside the country. In his words, "It is a subject for discussion as long as the matter is handled in a positive manner."
The North Korean government has detained three Americans. They are accused of carrying out hostile acts against the country. U.S. officials have made repeated calls for the release of the Americans. The officials described their detention as a serious barrier to better ties with the United States.
Mr. Jang spoke about the possibility of negotiating the release of the Americans. He said it would be difficult, adding "it is a matter of enforcing the law."
The United States and North Korea strongly disagree over the nuclear issue and the American detainees. Yet the two sides appear to keep communications open through what has been called the New York channel.
Mr. Jang serves as North Korea's lead contact for talks with U.S. officials. He added that, "We meet with U.S. officials and discuss issues of mutual concern on a regular basis."
I'm Jonathan Evans.