North Korea condemns U.S. sanctions, warns denuclearization at risk

North Korea on Sunday condemned the U.S. administration for stepping up sanctions and pressure on the nuclear-armed country, warning of a return to "exchanges of fire" and that disarming Pyongyang could be blocked forever.

The North's stinging response came after the United States said on Monday it had introduced sanctions on three North Korean officials, including a top aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, for alleged human rights abuses.

Denuclearizing North Korea has made little progress since Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump met in Singapore in June in a historic summit. The two sides have yet to reschedule working-level talks between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol, which were canceled abruptly in November.

While crediting Trump for his "willingness" to improve relations with the North, also known as DPRK, Pyongyang accused the U.S. State Department of being "bent on bringing the DPRK-U.S. relations back to the status of last year which was marked by exchanges of fire."

North Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement that Washington had taken "sanctions measures for as many as eight times against the companies, individuals and ships of not only the DPRK but also Russia, China and other third countries..."

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U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un leave after signing documents that acknowledge the progress of the talks and pledge to keep momentum going, after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un after they signed documents that acknowledged the progress of the talks and pledge to keep momentum going, after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un walk during their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Anthony Wallace/Pool via Reuters TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un attend a signing ceremony during a summit at the Capella Hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un walk during their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Anthony Wallace/Pool via Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during the signing of a document after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Susan Walsh/Pool via Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un react during their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Anthony Wallace/Pool via Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un look at each others before signing documents that acknowledge the progress of the talks and pledge to keep momentum going, after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. They are flanked by Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk in the Capella Hotel after their working lunch, on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Susan Walsh/Pool via Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Kevin Lim/The Straits Times via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
U.S. President Donald Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Kevin Lim/The Straits Times via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un react at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures next to North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un before their bilateral meeting at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
TOPSHOT - Pedestrians walk in front of a screen showing a news report displaying portraits of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in Tokyo on June 12, 2018. - Trump and Kim have become on June 12 the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet, shake hands and negotiate to end a decades-old nuclear stand-off. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
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If the U.S. administration believed that heightened sanctions and pressure would force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons, "it will count as (its) greatest miscalculation, and it will block the path to denuclearization on the Korean peninsula forever - a result desired by no one," according to the statement.

The foreign ministry statement was released under the name of the policy research director of the Institute for American Studies. (Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin and Josh Smith; Editing by Mark Potter)

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