Kim rethinking US talks, launch moratorium

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will soon decide whether to continue diplomatic talks and maintain his moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests, a senior North Korean official said yesterday, adding that the United States (US) threw away a golden opportunity at the recent summit between their leaders.

Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, addressing a meeting of diplomats and foreign media, including The Associated Press, in Pyongyang said the North was deeply disappointed by the failure of the two sides to reach any agreements at the Hanoi summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

She said Pyongyang now has no intention of compromising or continuing talks unless the US 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.”

Choe, who attended the February 27-28 talks in Hanoi, said Kim was puzzled by what she called the “eccentric” negotiation position of the US. She suggested that while Trump was more willing to talk, an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust was created by the uncompromising demands of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton. She said statements by senior Trump advisers since the summit have further worsened the climate.

Even so, she said personal relations between the two leaders are still good “and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful”.

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.

“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 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.”

Choe questioned the claim by 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.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui (C) speaks at a gathering for diplomats in Pyongyang, North Korea. – AP