Asia

North Korea rejects US Secretary of State Pompeo from nuclear dialogue: State media

SEOUL (AFP, REUTERS) – North Korea no longer wants US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo involved in nuclear talks, calling for someone who “is more careful and mature in communicating”, state media said on Thursday (April 18).

“I am afraid that, if Pompeo engages in the talks again, the table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled,” Mr Kwon Jong Gun, director general of the Department of American Affairs at North Korea’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said, according to the official KCNA news agency.

The North has lashed out at Mr Pompeo on several occasions for backing what it called “gangster-like” negotiating tactics.

“Therefore, even in the case of possible resumption of the dialogue with the US, I wish our dialogue counterpart would not be Pompeo but… (another) person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.” 

The comments were released hours after Pyongyang announced the test-firing of a new tactical weapon with a “powerful warhead” – the first such test since nuclear negotiations with Washington stalled.

The test-fire marked a ratcheting up of tensions weeks after a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and United States President Donald Trump in Hanoi ended without agreement.

And Mr Kwon warned that if the US did not “get rid of the root cause” that led the North to acquire nuclear weapons, “no one can predict the situation on the Korean peninsula”. He didn’t elaborate.

But, he added, it was “fortunate” that Mr Kim and Mr Trump remained on “good terms as usual” despite the gridlock in nuclear talks. 

Kwon, whom KCNA said was responding to a question from one of its journalists, said leader Kim had made clear that the US attitude has to change.

“We cannot be aware of Pompeo’s ulterior motive behind his self-indulgence in reckless remarks; whether he is indeed unable to understand words properly or just pretending on purpose.

“The US cannot move us one iota by its current way of thinking. In his previous visits to Pyongyang, Pompeo was granted audiences with our Chairman of the State Affairs Commission for several times and pleaded for the denuclearisation.

“However, after sitting the other way round, he spouted reckless remarks hurting the dignity of our supreme leadership at Congress hearings last week to unveil his mean character by himself, thus stunning the reasonable people.”

In testimony to a Senate subcommittee last week, Pompeo, who flew to Pyongyang four times last year, was asked if he would agree with the characterisation of Kim as a “tyrant”. 

“Sure. I’m sure I’ve said that,” Pompeo replied.

North Korea takes an exceedingly dim view of anything it sees as a personal attack on Kim, who enjoys a personality cult among a people who are fed a steady diet of propaganda about the founding family.

Since the beginning of the thaw in relations between the US and North Korea, Pyongyang has been far happier to deal directly with Trump, who critics fear is too soft on the regime and is not sufficiently versed in diplomacy.

The US president has made much of his personal relationship with Kim, musing on several occasions about their “love” for each other.

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