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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

North Korea hints at ditching denuclearisation talks and resuming tests

Senior official says US threw away 'golden opportunity' by taking hard line at Hanoi summit

A TV at Seoul Railway Station shows file footage of North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, during a news programme on March 15, 2019. AP Photo
A TV at Seoul Railway Station shows file footage of North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, during a news programme on March 15, 2019. AP Photo

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will soon make a decision on whether to continue diplomatic talks and maintain the country's moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests, a senior North Korean official said, noting the United States threw away a golden opportunity at the recent summit between their leaders.

Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, addressing an urgent meeting Friday of diplomats and foreign media in Pyongyang, said the North was deeply disappointed by the failure of the two sides to reach any agreements at the Hanoi summit between Mr Kim and President Donald Trump.

She said Pyongyang now has no intention of compromising or continuing talks unless the United States takes measures that are commensurate to the changes it has taken – such as the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests – and changes its "political calculation."

Ms Choe, who attended the February 27-28 talks in Hanoi, said Mr Kim was puzzled by what she called the "eccentric" negotiation position of the US. She suggested that while Mr Trump was more willing to talk, the US position was hardened by the uncompromising demands of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

"Personal relations between the two supreme leaders are still good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful," she added.

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

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

Ms Choe questioned the claim by Mr Trump at a news conference after the talks in Hanoi broke down that the North was seeking the lifting of all sanctions against it, and said it was seeking only the ones that are directed at its civilian economy. After the summit had ended, State Department officials clarified that was indeed the North's position, but said the lifting of economic sanctions was such a big demand that it would essentially subsidise the North's continued nuclear activity.

Ms Choe said it was the US that was being too demanding and inflexible.

"What is clear is that the US has thrown away a golden opportunity this time," she said. "I'm not sure why the US came out with this different description. We never asked for the removal of sanctions in their entirety.

"This time we understood very clearly that the United States has a very different calculation to ours."

She refused to comment directly when asked by one of the ambassadors about news reports the North may be preparing for another missile launch or satellite launch.

"Whether to maintain this moratorium or not is the decision of our chairman of the state affairs commission," she said. "He will make his decision in a short period of time."

Journalists were not allowed to ask questions during the briefing, which lasted nearly an hour.

Updated: March 15, 2019 03:17 PM

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