US hopes North Korea talks to go ahead despite Pyongyang threat

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States said Tuesday (July 16) that it hoped to hold denuclearisation talks with North Korea despite a warning from Pyongyang that US-South Korean military exercises could affect the planned resumption.

The State Department said it remained upbeat over promises made by leader Kim Jong Un to President Donald Trump at a February summit in Vietnam and then during Trump’s dramatic walk across the Demilitarised Zone into North Korea on June 30.

“From our perspective, we would hope that no one would try to block, in their government or our government, the ability for President Trump and Chairman Kim to make progress on the commitments they made to each other in Vietnam,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters.

“We look forward, of course, to resuming those negotiations and we hope to talk, always, so we can advance progress on these commitments,” Ortagus said.

She declined to comment directly on North Korea’s reaction to next month’s military drills, referring the question to the Pentagon, or to give a date for talks.

Last month’s mini-summit agreed to resume working-level talks between the two countries to lay the groundwork for a future deal.

Ortagus said that Stephen Biegun, the US negotiator on North Korea, “will quietly continue to make progress behind the scenes.”

She appeared to play down the impact of North Korea’s statement carried by its state media, saying it came from “a person within the foreign ministry.”

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