Kim Jong Un may abandon diplomatic negotiations with the Trump administration and restart his regime’s missile and nuclear tests, a senior North Korean official said Friday.
Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, addressing a meeting of diplomats and foreign media in Pyongyang, said the U.S. threw away a “golden opportunity” last month at the summit in Hanoi, where Kim and President Donald Trump met over two days but failed to reach any agreement on denuclearization or sanctions relief.
Now, Choe said, “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.”
In Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo downplayed the threat, saying Trump would continue to pursue negotiations with the North Korean leader.
“She left open the possibility that negotiations would continue, for sure,” Pompeo said of Choe’s remarks. “It’s the administration desire that we continue to have conversations around this.”
Pompeo said Kim personally promised Trump that North Korea would not restart its nuclear and missile weapons testing. Kim’s regime has not conducted any such tests for more than a year.
“In Hanoi on multiple occasions, he spoke directly to the president and made a commitment he would not resume nuclear testing, nor would he resume missile testing,” Pompeo said. “We have every expectation he would live up to that.”
Choe, who attended the February talks in Hanoi, said Kim was puzzled by what she called the “eccentric” negotiation position of the U.S. She blamed Pompeo and Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, for creating an “atmosphere of hostility and mistrust” by making uncompromising demands of North Korea.
“They’re wrong about that,” Pompeo said in response to her pointed accusations against him. The secretary of state noted that North Korean officials have attacked him before, alleging in June 2018, for example, that he had made “gangster-like” demands during a meeting in Pyongyang. Choe used that term again on Friday.
But Pompeo said his relationship with North Korean officials is “very professional” and he has “every expectation” that will continue.
Choe said that despite the collapse of the Hanoi talks, Kim and Trump still had a good personal relationship. “The chemistry is mysteriously wonderful,” she said
She said she expects Kim to decide soon whether to restart the missile tests or keep the moratorium in place.
“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. “I want to make it clear that the gangster-like stand of the U.S. will eventually put the situation in danger.”
Trump and other U.S. officials say the summit collapsed because Kim asked for sweeping economic sanctions relief. In exchange, Kim offered to dismantle North Korea’s main nuclear facility, Yongbyan. But the North Korean dictator would not commit to giving up North Korea’s stockpile of nuclear bombs, its missiles or its other capabilities, U.S. officials said.
On Friday, Choe repeated North Korea’s assertions that Kim had only asked for limited relief from the sanctions and had offered to permanently dismantle all its nuclear material production, including plutonium and uranium, around the Yongbyan facility.
Choe said the U.S. had been inflexible during the Hanoi discussions and called the demand that denuclearization come before sanctions are eased “an absurd sophism.” She added that while South Korean President Moon Jae-in has tried to help bring the U.S. and North Korea together to talk, the South is “a player, not an arbiter” because it is an ally of Washington.
She said even though the people, military and officials of the munitions industry have sent Kim thousands of petitions to never give up the nuclear program, he went to Hanoi to build trust and carry out mutually agreed commitments “one by try and step by step.”
“What is clear is that the U.S. has thrown away a golden opportunity this time,” she said. “I’m not sure why the U.S. 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 added.
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. Recently released satellite images show that North Korea began rebuilding a key launch site around the time of the Vietnam summit between Trump and Kim.
“Whether to maintain this moratorium or not is the decision of our chairman of the state affairs commission,” she said, using one of Kim’s titles. “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.
Deirdre Shesgreen of USA TODAY contributed to this story
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