NKorean official: Kim rethinking US talks, launch moratorium

Sergio Conner
March 15, 2019

"We have no intention to yield to the USA demands [put forward at the Hanoi summit] in any form, nor are we willing to engage in negotiations of this kind", said Choe, according to Russian state news agency TASS, which attended the press event in Pyongyang.

The reports come after a summit last month in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended without agreement over how best to remove nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula. Interpreter is on Choe's right and the man standing is unidentified vice director of foreign ministry's North America desk.

North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui reportedly said at a press conference in Pyongyang that Kim and Trump's relationship was still "good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful". John Bolton, President Donald Trump's national security adviser, says North Korean allegations that he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo created an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust at last month's nuclear summit in Hanoi are "inaccurate".

She added that after the summit, Kim Jong-un questioned whether it makes sense to hold a new one.

She accused the USA of taking a "gangster-like" stance, according to the Associated Press, but added that "personal relations between the two supreme leaders are still good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful".

She said it was entirely up to Kim whether to continue the launch and test moratorium, and said she expects he will "clarify his position" within a short period of time.

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"'On our way back to the homeland, our chairman of the state affairs commission [Kim] said, 'For what reason do we have to make this train trip again?" she said. "I want to make it clear that the gangster-like stand of the USA will eventually put the situation in danger". We have neither the intention to compromise with the U.S. in any form nor much less the desire or plan to conduct this kind of negotiation.

In Washington this week, the USA special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, said that diplomacy was "still very much alive", though he did not say if there had been any negotiations since the summit, or outline any plans for further talks. Earlier, North Korean media said that although the summit produced no tangible result, the leaders agreed to continue their dialogue.

"I'm not sure why the US came out with this different description", Choe said. She said the "gangster-like stand of the USA will eventually put the situation in danger".

Many experts see signs of a hardening of the US stance post-Hanoi, with Bolton taking a leading role in the media ruling out any sanctions relief until North Korea fully denuclearizes and even threatening to ramp up sanctions. "Just in the past hour, I spoke with my South Korean counterpart and we've discussed their reaction and our reaction, but I would like to speak further within USA government before we respond". "We never asked for the removal of sanctions in their entirety".

US envoy Stephen Biegun has also ruled out doing denuclearization "incrementally", although he insisted on Monday that diplomacy was "still very much alive".

"She left open the possibility that negotiations continue", Pompeo said when asked about the official's comments Friday at the State Department, where he also touched on the International Criminal Court and the brutal attack on two mosques in New Zealand.

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