N. Korea demands Pompeo’s removal from US nuclear talks


SEOUL • North Korea demanded that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (picture) be removed from direct nuclear negotiations between the countries, turning up pressure after the collapse of a summit between its leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump in February.

Kwon Jong Gun, a North Korean Foreign Ministry official, criticised Pompeo for interfering with relations in a report on its official KCNA news agency published yesterday. He accused the top US diplomat of “reckless remarks” and “fabricating stories like a fiction writer”.

“I am afraid that, if Pompeo engages in the talks again, the table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled,” Kwon said.

“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.”

Kwon added that Kim remains “on good terms as usual” with Trump, comments that signal the regime wants to open up wedges in the administration between the president and his advisors, including Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Pyongyang has portrayed the pair as pushing for its complete disarmament before dispensing economic rewards, which it sees as a non-starter for negotiations.

Kim has escalated his rhetoric since the summit, urging top ruling party members last week to deal a “severe blow to hostile foreign forces” by resisting sanctions.

He also gave the US a yearend deadline to make it an offer it likes.

After Kim issued the deadline, Pompeo said at an event in Texas this week that the North Korean leader promised Trump to denuclearise and “our teams are working with the North Koreans to chart a path forward so that we can get there. He said he wanted it done by the end of the year. I’d love to see that done sooner”.

North Korea’s Kwon said Pompeo was “talking nonsense” in suggesting that working-level negotiation between the countries would be finished by year-end.

The speech, he added, only suggested “the US should change its way of calculation and come up with responsive measures before the end of this year”.

Just hours before KCNA quoted Kwon blasting Pompeo, it said in a separate report that North Korea had tested a “new-type tactical guided weapon”.

While the description suggests the weapon wasn’t a nuclear device or intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the test sends a pointed message to the US and its allies in Seoul about the risk of allowing talks to fall apart.

Trump has long defended his decision to hold two high-profile summits with Kim by citing the latter’s decision to halt nuclear and ICBM tests. — Bloomberg