North Korea’s state media yesterday criticized the US for an “evil” attempt to maintain sanctions against Pyongyang, accusing US President Donald Trump of blocking progress in inter-Korean relations.
The declaration threatens to upset the negotiations between Washington and nuclear-armed North Korea, in which Trump is expected to hold a second summit soon with Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong-un.
At their first meeting in Singapore in June they signed a vaguely worded pledge on denuclearization, but little progress has been made since then with the two sides sparring over the meaning of the text.
Pyongyang has not made any explicit public promise to give up its existing arsenal, but has repeatedly called for UN Security Council sanctions imposed over its weapons programs to be loosened, citing a freeze in its nuclear and missile tests.
For its part Washington has been adamant the measures should be maintained until Pyongyang’s complete denuclearization.
Washington was playing a “double game,” said a lengthy commentary carried by North Korea’s KCNA news agency and was “little short of destroying” the rare diplomatic opportunity between the two.
“Hostile policy and reciprocity can not go together,” it said, and negotiations would not move forward “an inch with an obstacle called sanctions.”
“The US ... is responding to good faith with evil,” it added.
KCNA said the article, nearly 1,700 words long and titled “What Do Ill-boding Remarks from US Signify?” had been “made public” by Kim Chol-myong.
No further details about its origins or the author’s affiliation were given, suggesting that “Kim Chol-myong” is likely to be a pseudonym, but the fact that it was carried by Pyongyang’s official news agency indicates that it has the authorities’ approval.
It was published just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang and said he had “productive” talks on denuclearization with the North Korean leader.
After an earlier Pompeo visit in July, North Korea issued an angrily worded official Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement condemning what it called his “unilateral” demands for its disarmament, describing them as “gangster-like.”
It cast doubt on the prospects for progress — even though it proclaimed “our good faith in President Trump” — and prompted the US leader to cancel a scheduled August trip to Pyongyang by the US secretary of state, before a fresh round of visits and a letter from Kim Jong-un restarted the process.
However, yesterday’s declaration went further, implicitly criticizing the US president — who is known to consider personal relationships important.
Without naming Trump, it referred to his comments last week that Seoul would not lift its own sanctions against North Korea “without our approval.”
“Even the White House made such threatening words, enraging not only South Koreans, but all other Koreans,” KCNA said.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in — who has held three meetings with Kim Jong-un this year — has vowed to honor the UN sanctions, but agreed to pursue a handful of joint economic projects with North Korea.
After his visit this month, Pompeo said Kim Jong-un had agreed to allow international inspectors to visit a nuclear test site that North Korea dismantled in May, but did not elaborate on any offers made by the US in return.
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