North Korea yesterday demanded the removal of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from talks over its banned nuclear program, hours after it claimed to have tested a new kind of weapon.
Describing Pompeo as “reckless” and immature, the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it wanted him replaced by another interlocutor, a demand that significantly ups the ante in a diplomatic standoff.
Pyongyang and Washington have been at loggerheads since the collapse of a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump earlier this year.
“I am afraid that, if Pompeo engages in the talks again, the table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled,” Department of American Affairs Director-General Kwon Jong-gun said according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“Therefore, even in the case of possible resumption of the dialogue with the US, I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo, but ... [another] person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us,” Kwon added.
It is not the first time North Korea has singled out Pompeo for special criticism.
When the secretary of state met with North Korean officials in Pyongyang in July last year, he was condemned for his “gangster-like” insistence that North Korea move toward unilateral disarmament.
Kim had made clear that the US attitude has to change, Kwon said, adding that Pompeo was standing in the way of a resumption of talks.
“We cannot be aware of Pompeo’s ulterior motive behind his self-indulgence in reckless remarks; whether he is indeed unable to understand words properly or just pretending on purpose,” he said. “The US cannot move us one iota by its current way of thinking.”
“In his previous visits to Pyongyang, Pompeo was granted audiences with our chairman of the State Affairs Commission several times and pleaded for denuclearization,” Kwon added. “However, after sitting the other way around, he spouted reckless remarks hurting the dignity of our supreme leadership at Congress hearings last week to unveil his mean character by himself, thus stunning reasonable people.”
Analysts said that North Korea might have been reacting to Pompeo’s assessment during a US Senate hearing that Kim could be described as a “tyrant.”
Since the beginning of the thaw in relations between the US and North Korea, Pyongyang has been far happier to deal directly with Trump, who critics fear is too soft on the regime and is not sufficiently versed in diplomacy.
Yesterday’s attack on Pompeo came hours after KCNA announced that Kim had supervised the test firing of a new tactical weapon with a “powerful warhead.”
Wednesday’s test was “conducted in various modes of firing at different targets,” KCNA reported, adding that Kim described its development as one “of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People’s Army.”
The report gave no details of the weapon.
South Korea had not detected anything on radar, so it was unlikely to have been a missile, a military official said.
“The description makes whatever was tested sound like a missile, but that could be everything from a small anti-tank guided missile to a surface-to-air missile to a rocket artillery system,” North Korea analyst Ankit Panda said.
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