Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

North Korea calls Mike Pompeo a 'diehard toxin'

Pyongang's foreign minister hits out after US secretary of state said sanctions would continue

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, second from right, greets US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang on July 6, 2018. AP Photo
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, second from right, greets US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang on July 6, 2018. AP Photo

North Korea's top diplomat said on Friday that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was a "diehard toxin" who only complicated denuclearisation talks and that North Korea was ready for both dialogue and standoff.

Talks aimed at dismantling the North's nuclear and missile programmes have stalled since a failed second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi in February.

Mr Trump and Mr Kim met again in June at the inter-Korean border and agreed to reopen working-level negotiations, but that has not happened.

Since the Vietnam summit, North Korea has demanded that Mr Pompeo be replaced with a "more mature" person, while lauding the rapport built between Mr Kim and Mr Trump.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, who took part in the Hanoi summit along with Mr Pompeo, called the secretary of state the "diehard toxin of the US diplomacy" who employed "hackneyed sanctions rhetoric".

Mr Ri referred to Mr Pompeo's remarks in recent press interviews in which he said sanctions would be kept until North Korea takes concrete actions on denuclearisation.

"He is truly impudent enough to utter such thoughtless words which only leave us disappointed and sceptical as to whether we can solve any problem with such a guy," Mr Ri said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

He also accused Mr Pompeo of casting "dark shadows" over the talks and being more interested in his political ambitions than in US foreign policy.

"If the US still dreams a pipe dream of gaining everything through sanctions, we are left with two options, either to leave it enjoying the dream to its heart's content or to wake it up from the dream," Mr Ri said.

"We are ready for both dialogue and standoff."

US envoy Stephen Biegun, who leads working-level talks with North Korea, was in Seoul this week to discuss ways to get negotiations back on track.

Talks were expected to be reopened soon, South Korea's deputy national security adviser Kim Hyun-chong said on Thursday, giving an upbeat assessment after meeting Mr Biegun.

"We look forward to the progress of denuclearisation talks in terms of mutual trust and respect between the US and North Korea, culminating in good results," said deputy spokesman Kim Eun-han of South Korea's Unification Ministry on Friday, when asked about Mr Ri's statement.

North Korea has fired a series of short-range missiles in recent weeks in protest against US-South Korea joint military exercises and the adoption of new weapons, complicating the reopening of the talks.

Updated: August 23, 2019 10:48 AM

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