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World & Nation

Kim Jong Un is rethinking U.S. talks and his launch moratorium, North Korea official says

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, center, speaks at a gathering for diplomats in Pyon
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, center, with diplomats in Pyongyang on Friday.
(Eric Talmadge / Associated Press)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will soon make a decision on whether to continue diplomatic talks and maintain the country’s moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests, a senior North Korean official said, noting the U.S. threw away a golden opportunity at the recent summit in Vietnam.

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

She said Pyongyang now had no intention of compromising or continuing talks unless the United States took measures that were commensurate with the changes it has undergone — such as the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests — and altered its “political calculation.”

Choe, who attended the Feb. 27-28 talks in Hanoi, said Kim was puzzled by what she called the “eccentric” negotiation position of the U.S. She suggested that while Trump was more willing to talk, the U.S. position was hardened by the uncompromising demands of Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and national security advisor John Bolton.

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“Personal relations between the two supreme leaders are still good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful,” she added.

She said it was entirely up to Kim whether to continue the launch and test moratorium, and said she expected he would “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 U.S. will eventually put the situation in danger. 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.”

Choe questioned the claim by Trump at a news conference after the talks in Hanoi broke down that North Korea was seeking the lifting of all sanctions against it, and said it was seeking only the ones that were directed at its civilian economy.

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After the summit, State Department officials clarified that was indeed North Korea’s position, but said the lifting of economic sanctions was such a big demand that it would essentially subsidize the country’s continued nuclear activity.

Choe said it was the U.S. that was being too demanding and inflexible.

“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 that North Korea may be preparing for another missile launch or satellite launch.

“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.


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