North Korea will halt its nuclear tests if the US ceases its annual military exercises with South Korea, Kim Jong-un’s foreign minister has said in a rare interview with western media. This following the North’s foreign minister, Ri Su Yong, asserting that his country had a right to a nuclear deterrent in remarks to the Associated Press at the United Nations.

“Stop the nuclear war exercises in the Korean Peninsula, then we should also cease our nuclear tests,” said Ri Su Yong in comments directed at Washington.

Ri held firm to Pyongyang’s longstanding position that the US is driving his country to develop nuclear weapons as an act of self-defence. He suggested that suspending the military exercises with Seoul could open the door to talks and reduced tensions.

“If we continue on this path of confrontation, this will lead to very catastrophic results, not only for the two countries but for the whole entire world as well,” he said, speaking in Korean through an interpreter.

“It is really crucial for the United States government to withdraw its hostile policy against the DPRK and, as an expression of this, stop the military exercises, war exercises, in the Korean Peninsula. Then we will respond likewise.”

Ignoring the North Korean plea, a US state department official defended the military exercises as demonstrating Washington’s commitment to its alliance with South Korea and maintaining their joint capabilities saying, “We call again on North Korea to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its international commitments and obligations,” that was Katina Adams, a spokeswoman for the state department’s east Asia and Pacific bureau.

North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile off its east coast April 23, 2016, South Korea has said, it had a reach of around 30km.

North Korea will hold a congress of its ruling Workers’ Party in early May for the first time in 36 years, at which its leader, Kim Jong-un, will surely restate that the country is a strong military power and now a nuclear state.

France has called on the European Union to unilaterally adopt additional sanctions against North Korea given missile launch confirmation. France is particularly active militarily worldwide these days and seems to be intent on regaining some foothold in worlds affairs economically and militarily.

In March the EU expanded trade and financial sanctions against North Korea, following up on harsh new measures imposed by the UN security council. Of course North korea feels increasingly isolated.

North Korea is banned from nuclear tests and activities that use ballistic missile technology under UN sanctions dating to 2006 and most recently adopted in March but the West insists it has pushed ahead with work to miniaturise a nuclear warhead and develop an ICBM.

The dialogue really must lift itself up off the floor of mistrust. Preconditions insisted by the US that North Korea first give up its nuclear weapons programed can hardly bear fruit when the US holds such a powerful nuclear arsenal over the communist state’s head and sends nuclear capable bombers over its skies and hosts thousands of battle ready troops at its borders.

The world needs a Bernie Sanders in the Whitehouse to begin the de-escalation of military might threats to allow political will and diplomacy to come into play to reduce tensions and bring some light into the situation. No one wins in a nuclear exchange even when there is no comeback – North Korea can only make a nominal nuclear stand, all observers and experts agree. It’s up to the USA and its allies to break the stalemate.