North Korean official says diplomacy is off the table until it builds a missile that can hit the east coast of the US

North Korea is not interested in diplomacy until it develops a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the US East coast, a North Korean official said to CNN on Monday.

Although the country was not forgoing diplomacy completely, the official said that North Korea was first interested in building an ICBM that is able to reach “all the way to the East coast of the mainland US,” CNN reported.

“Before we can engage in diplomacy with the Trump administration, we want to send a clear message that [North Korea] has a reliable defensive and offensive capability to counter any aggression from the United States,” the official said, according to CNN.

North Korean deputy UN ambassador Kim In Ryong echoed the sentiment on Monday: “Unless the hostile policy and the nuclear threat of the US is thoroughly eradicated, we will never put our nuclear weapons and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table under any circumstances,” Kim said, according to Reuters.

The official’s comments come amid renewed tension in the region, as US and South Korean forces begin to conduct major naval and ground exercises. North Korea often releases a flurry of incensed statements prior to US-South Korean drills, such as a recent one calling them a “reckless act of war maniacs.”

Although their claims are often exaggerated, North Korea’s latest advancement in their missile program have drawn concern from officials at the White House, who have admitted that the country was “developing a pretty good nuclear re-entry vehicle.”

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said he considered the North Korean threat “manageable” during a press conference on Thursday; however, he acknowledged that the US could face a bigger problem if North Korea’s missile program “grows beyond where it is today.”

While North Korea appears to keep diplomacy off the table for now, the US appears to continue looking for support in the region. President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-In next month in South Korea, where he will call for “maximizing pressure on North Korea.”

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