North Korea on Tuesday dismissed South Korean calls to resume denuclearization talks with the U.S.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency published a statement from North Korean foreign ministry official Kwon Jong Gun denouncing calls to resume talks with the U.S. In his statement, reported by Reuters, Kwon dismissed the idea by South Korean President Moon Jae-in of mediating talks between the U.S. and North Korea.
“It is just the time for (South Korea) to stop meddling in others’ affairs but it seems there is no cure or prescription for its bad habit,” Kwon said.
Kwon added, “Explicitly speaking once again, we have no intention to sit face to face with the United States.”
Kwon’s statement coincided with the arrival of U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun in South Korea. Biegun, who is also the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea, was set to arrive in the South Korean capitol of Seoul on Tuesday and meet with South Korean officials on Wednesday and Thursday.
Biegun has led working-level talks with North Korean officials during President Donald Trump’s denuclearization efforts with North Korea.
Denuclearization efforts stalled out after Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for a second time in February of 2019. Trump and Kim reportedly disagreed on the issue of sanctions and Kim later announced a 2019 year end deadline for the U.S. to propose an agreeable set of peace terms, after which North Korea signaled it would break off contact with the U.S.
The North Korean envoys remarks also followed renewed tensions between North Korea and South Korea. In June, North Korea blew up a liaison office meant to facilitate cooperation between the two Koreas and threatened to move troops towards the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea. North Korea took those escalatory actions after decrying a campaign by South Korean activists to drop anti-regime leaflets over North Korea.
Kwon said South Korea had lost its relevance as a mediator, The Associated Press reported.
North Korea has denounced the idea of talks with the U.S. as a disingenuous effort by the Trump administration to win political credit without seriously engaging in negotiations with North Korea.
North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Sun Hui, whom Biegun has described as a potential counterpart should peace talks with North Korea resume, said last week that the Trump administration treated talks with North Korea as “nothing more than a tool for grappling its political crisis.”
Biegun himself said last week that there was still an opportunity between the U.S. and North Korea to “make substantial progress” but that an in-person meeting between Trump and Kim would be unlikely, given ongoing coronavirus concerns.