SEOUL/WASHINGTON, Aug 9 (Reuters) - North Korea accused the United States on Thursday of pushing for international sanctions despite goodwill moves by Pyongyang and said progress on denuclearization promises could not be expected if Washington continues to follow an "outdated acting script."
A foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement on state-run KCNA that North Korea was still willing to implement a broad agreement made at the landmark June 12 summit in Singapore between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The two sides vowed to work towards North Korea's denuclearization but have struggled to reach a deal to meet that goal, with the United States insisting sanctions pressure must be maintained during negotiations.
RELATED: 21 photos of North Korea that Kim Jong Un wouldn't want you to see
21 photos of North Korea that Kim Jong Un wouldn't want you to see
21 photos of North Korea that Kim Jong Un wouldn't want you to see
Day-to-day life in North Korea can be bleak. Sanctions put in place to punish the nation for its nuclear weapons tests have crippled the economy.
The Hermit Kingdom, one of the most closed-off places in the world, has experienced increasingly severe food shortages in recent years.
Childhood in North Korea can be difficult. Many children in rural areas have to work on farms, and forced labor drives much of the country's economic output.
Malnutrition affects a shocking number of North Korean children — roughly 28% of kids under 5 have stunted growth.
Poverty and hunger are most acute in North Korea's countryside. An estimated 41% of the population, or 10.5 million people, are believed to be undernourished.
Xiaolu Chu, a Getty photographer who traveled through North Korea by train in 2015, said he noticed scores of people in rural villages begging for money. He shared some of his photos with Business Insider.
"There are nearly no fat people in North Korea," Chu told Business Insider. "Everyone looks very thin."
But even North Koreans in cities face poor living conditions. Many live in densely packed high-rise apartments and often experience electricity shortages and elevator breakdowns.
And there's not much access to the internet — people make do with a closed-off computer network system accessible in only a handful of places, like this library in Pyongyang.
One of the most telling aspects of North Korean life is its military. The country's leader, Kim Jong Un, loves to show off its military might, holding flashy parades and distributing propaganda photos of vast armies of marching soldiers.
But it's rarer to capture photos that show the flipside of military life. North Korean soldiers are often malnourished or ill because of rigorous training and a lack of food.
As one soldier defected last year, others shot him five times. Surgeons in South Korea then made a shocking discovery as they rushed to treat his wounds: He was riddled with parasites.
The parasitic worms, some of which were 11 inches long, illustrate the poor conditions in North Korea. The country still uses human excrement to fertilize its crops, a practice that can spread parasites.
Defections aren't uncommon, though the number of people who did so dropped by 21% last year, to 1,127.
South Korea attributes the falling number in part to tighter border security. North Korean soldiers are ruthless when they see people escaping — here are bullet holes from when they tried to shoot a defector in November.
Another disturbing aspect of life in North Korea is the country's notorious prison camps, where citizens — some of whom were found to have committed minor infractions that wouldn't be considered crimes in other countries — can face appalling conditions.
Prisoners in these so-called re-education camps are often starved and forced to do hard labor. Some survivors have reported harsh interrogations and even torture. Though there aren't photos of the camps, they're visible on Google Earth.
The international community has long condemned North Korea's human-rights record. The US too has highlighted victims of especially egregious brutality, like Ji Seong-ho, who attended President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech in January.
Ji left his homeland in 2006. He says he crossed thousands of miles on crutches after enduring years of hunger, grievous injuries from falling on train tracks, and torture at the hands of North Korean police.
"I understand you still keep those crutches as a reminder of how far you have come," Trump said during his State of the Union speech, adding: "Seong-ho's story is a testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom."
Today, that freedom is far from reality for many still in Kim's North Korea.
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The North Korean statement followed comments this week by top American diplomats stessing the need for Pyongyang to take additional steps toward denuclearization. Those followed contentious remarks last week by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean Foreign Minster Ri Yong Ho on the sidelines of a regional summit in Singapore.
North Korea's foreign ministry said on Thursday it had stopped testing missiles, conducted nuclear tests and dismantled "the nuclear test ground," yet the United States still insisted on "denuclearization first."
North Korea went ahead with the return of the remains of some U.S. soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean war in a goodwill measure aimed at breaking down mistrust between the countries, it said.
"However, the U.S. responded to our expectation by inciting international sanctions and pressure against the DPRK," it said in a statement carried by KCNA news agency.
The United States was "attempting to invent a pretext for increased sanctions against the DPRK."
"As long as the U.S. denies even the basic decorum for its dialog partner and clings to the outdated acting script which the previous administrations have all tried and failed, one cannot expect any progress in the implementation of the DPRK-U.S. joint statement including the denuclearization," it said.
The White House and State Department did not immediately return requests for comment.
North Korea also accused unidentified high-level U.S. officials of "going against the intention of President Trump" by "making baseless allegations against us and making desperate attempts at intensifying the international sanctions and pressure."
On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the United States was "not willing to wait for too long" for North Korea to take steps toward denuclearizing.
"This is all in North Korea's court," Haley told reporters traveling with her during a visit to Colombia.
Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, also said this week North Korea has not taken the necessary steps to denuclearize.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri traveled this week to Iran, where President Hassan Rouhani told him the United States cannot be trusted after the Trump administration reneged on a 2015 deal to lift sanctions in return for curbs on Iran's own nuclear program. (Reporting by Haejin Choi; Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Nick Macfie and Jonathan Oatis)