North Korea demanded that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from direct nuclear negotiations between the countries, turning up pressure after the collapse of a summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump in February.
Kwon Jong Gun, a North Korean foreign ministry official, criticized Pompeo for interfering with relations in a report on its official KCNA news agency published Thursday. He accused the top U.S. diplomat of “reckless remarks” and “fabricating stories like a fiction writer.”
“I am afraid that, if Pompeo engages in the talks again, the table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled,” Kwon said. “Therefore, even in the case of possible resumption of the dialogue with the U.S., I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo but other person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.”
Kwon added that Kim remains “on good terms as usual” with Trump, comments that signal the regime wants to open up wedges in the administration between the president and his advisers, including Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton. Pyongyang has portrayed the pair as pushing for its complete disarmament before dispensing economic rewards, which it sees as a non-starter for negotiations.
Kim has escalated his rhetoric since the summit, urging top ruling party members last week to deal a “severe blow to hostile foreign forces” by resisting sanctions. He also gave the U.S. a year-end deadline to make it an offer it liked.
After Kim issued the deadline, Pompeo said at an event in Texas this week that the North Korean leader promised Trump to denuclearize and “our teams are working with the North Koreans to plot a — to chart a path forward so that we can get there. He said he wanted it done by the end of the year. I’d love to see that done sooner.”
North Korea’s Kwon said Pompeo was “talking nonsense” in suggesting that working-level negotiation between the countries would be finished by year’s end. The speech, he added, only suggested “the U.S. should change its way of calculation and come up with responsive measures before the end of this year.”
Just hours before KCNA quoted Kwon blasting Pompeo, it said in a separate report that North Korea had tested a “new-type tactical guided weapon.”
While the description suggests the weapon wasn’t a nuclear device or intercontinental ballistic missile, the test sends a pointed message to the U.S. and its allies in Seoul about the risk of allowing talks to fall apart. Trump has long defended his decision to hold two high-profile summits with Kim by citing Kim’s decision to halt nuclear and ICBM tests.
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