Sat, Mar 16, 2019 - Page 6 News List

N Korea might suspend talks: diplomat

DANGEROUS STANCE:Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-hui said that the US lost a golden opportunity by creating an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust

Reuters, SEOUL

North Korea is considering suspending talks with the US and might rethink a ban on missile and nuclear tests unless Washington makes concessions, news reports from the North’s capital yesterday quoted a senior diplomat as saying.

North Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-hui blamed top US officials for the breakdown of last month’s summit in Hanoi between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Russian news agency TASS and the Associated Press said.

“We have no intention to yield to the US demands [at the Hanoi summit] in any form, nor are we willing to engage in negotiations of this kind,” TASS quoted Choe as telling reporters in Pyongyang.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US National Security Adviser John Bolton “created the atmosphere of hostility and mistrust and, therefore, obstructed the constructive effort for negotiations between the supreme leaders of North Korea and the United States,” TASS quoted Choe as saying.

Kim is to make an official announcement soon on his position on the denuclearization talks with the US and the North’s further actions, it added, citing Choe.

Washington threw away a golden opportunity at the summit, Choe was quoted saying as saying by AP, warning that Kim might rethink a moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests.

“I want to make it clear that the gangster-like stand of the US will eventually put the situation in danger,” AP quoted her as saying, but “personal relations between the two supreme leaders are still good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful.”

South Korea, which has an ambitious agenda of engagement with North Korea that is dependent on Pyongyang and Washington resolving at least some of their differences, said that it was too early to tell what Choe’s comments might mean.

“We cannot judge the current situation based solely on Vice Minister Choe Son-hui’s statements. We are watching the situation closely. In any situation, our government will endeavor for the restart of North Korea-US negotiations,” South Korea’s presidential Blue House said in a statement.

Choe’s comments echoed the North’s usual rhetoric at tense points in its dealings with Washington.

North Korea might be delivering an ultimatum, North Korea expert Joshua Pollack said.

“They’re putting down a marker, saying which way things are headed if nothing changes,” said Pollack, of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California.

The second Trump-Kim summit broke down over differences about US demands for Pyongyang to denuclearize and North Korea’s demand for dramatic relief from international sanctions imposed for its nuclear and missile tests, which it pursued for years in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

Choe had said after the Hanoi talks that Kim might lose his commitment to pursue a deal with the US after seeing it reject a request to lift some sanctions in return for the North destroying its main known nuclear complex.

In Washington this week, US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said that the US expected to be able to continue its close engagement, although he offered no specifics on when new talks might be held.

“Diplomacy is still very much alive,” Biegun said on Monday, but stopped short of saying if there had been any talks since the summit.

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