North Korea threatens to suspend denuclearization talks with the United States, reports say – The Washington Post
Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said North Korea may also rethink its moratorium on missile launches.
TOKYO — North Korea is considering suspending denuclearization talks with the United States unless Washington changes its stance after the breakdown of a summit meeting in Hanoi between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a senior official said Friday.
Kim Jong Un is set to make an official announcement soon on whether to continue diplomatic talks and maintain the country’s moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui told foreign diplomats and journalists in Pyongyang, the Associated Press reported.
The threat to suspend talks comes after evidence that North Korea has rebuilt a satellite rocket launchpad, and amid speculation it might be preparing a rocket launch, a move that would seen as very provocative in Washington.
Choe said North Korea was deeply disappointed by the breakdown of the talks in Hanoi and said the United States had missed a golden opportunity there.
She said Pyongyang now has no intention of compromising or continuing talks unless the United States changes its “political calculation,” and takes measures that are commensurate with the steps North Korea has already taken, such as the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests, AP reported.
“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 Kim.
“I want to make it clear that the gangster-like stand of the U.S. will eventually put the situation in danger,” she added. “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.”
At the summit, Kim offered a partial shutdown of the Yongbyon Nuclear Research complex, where a large part of North Korea’s fissile material is produced, in return for lifting almost all the meaningful economic sanctions on his country, U.S. officials say.
Trump rejected that deal on the grounds that it would allow Pyongyang to continue producing weapons of mass destruction, effectively financed by the lifting of sanctions. Globally, there was widespread agreement that North Korea was offering too little and demanding too much.
But Trump’s counter-offer was also widely seen as unrealistic. He tried to convince Kim to “go big,” and surrendering his entire arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in return for “a bright future” economically.
Choe said Kim was puzzled by what she called the “eccentric” negotiation position of the United States. She also suggested the U.S. position was hardened by the uncompromising demands of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, AP reported.
“Personal relations between the two supreme leaders are still good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful,” she said.
“What is clear is that the U.S. has thrown away a golden opportunity this time,” she said. “This time we understood very clearly that the United States has a very different calculation to ours.”
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, AP reported.
Satellite images released last week showed North Korea has completed reconstruction of a rocket launchpad and rocket engine testing station at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, with work beginning even before the Feb. 27-28 Hanoi summit.
Activity was also seen at a site in Sanumdong, just outside Pyongyang, that is North Korea’s primary developer of ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles, leading some experts to conclude that the launch of a space rocket was being considered.
Moon Chung-in, a special national security adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, warned this week that signs of launch preparations could be unwise for North Korea, if it is trying to use them as leverage for negotiations.
“North Korea should avoid a butterfly effect, in which a trivial move brings a huge catastrophe,” he told a news conference in Seoul on Tuesday.
Min Joo Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.