Thursday, 21 March, 2019

Pompeo 'hopeful' North Korea talks can continue

United States President Donald J. Trump speaks during the Shamrock Bowl Presentation at the White House Pool Getty Images North America
Kenny Thornton | 15 March, 2019, 23:08

South Korea's Unification Ministry revealed on Friday that a weekly meeting with North Korean representatives at the Kaesong joint industrial complex has been canceled by Pyongyang's request for the past three weeks.

"'On our way back to the homeland, our chairman of the state affairs commission [Kim] said, 'For what reason do we have to make this train trip again?" she said.

She also blamed top US officials for the breakdown of last month's summit in Hanoi, saying the "gangster-like stand of the USA will eventually put the situation in danger", according to Russia's Tass news agency and AP. She said statements by senior Trump advisers since the summit have further worsened the climate.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un take a walk after their first meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel, February 28, 2019, in Hanoi.

Bolton also disputed Choe's characterization that he and Pompeo had created a "hostile atmosphere" as "inaccurate", and said he had discussed the reports from North Korea with his South Korean counterparts this morning. "It is likely to gauge the USA reaction in the days ahead before making a decision to launch a rocket", he said.

President Trump said he walked away from the negotiating table because of different positions on what would be required for North Korea to receive sanction relief.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump meet along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House national security adviser John Bolton, right, during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb. 28, 2019.

His comments follow a suggestion by North Korean-Vice Foreign Minister Choe Sun-hui that denuclearisation talks might end and testing could resume. "That's Chairman Kim's word".

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At the summit, US President Donald Trump and Kim ended their meeting sooner than scheduled without reaching any agreement.

"We continue to work" to deliver on that, Pompeo said.

United States national security adviser John Bolton, who has argued for a tough approach to the North, said last week that Trump was open to more talks but warned of tougher sanctions if Kim did not denuclearise. Hanoi was supposed to be the part of the same old story where the USA accepted a meager offer from North Korea and declared diplomatic victory, only to watch the North Koreans take back everything they "gave away" a few months later and demand fresh concessions to refrain from further provocations. "I have every expectation that we'll be able to continue to do that", Pompeo said Friday.

Choe accused said Washington had squandered a golden opportunity at the summit, warning Kim might rethink a moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Pompeo and Bolton both offered swift, and not terribly concerned, responses to Choe's remarks.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un salutes on March 5 in Pyongyang upon his return after the Vietnam summit. In the meantime, he said, "we have stopped missile testing and nuclear testing". But those meetings broke down after the US demanded a full declaration of North Korea's nuclear inventory up front - a "gangster-like demand", according to the regime.

In Washington this week, the USA special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, said the United States expected to be able to continue its close engagement, though he offered no specifics on when new talks might be held.

US envoy Stephen Biegun has also ruled out doing denuclearization "incrementally", although he insisted on Monday that diplomacy was "still very much alive".

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