North Korea’s state-run media has bashed Foreign Minister Taro Kono after he said during a recent meeting with the United States’ top North Korea envoy that it is too early to adopt a declaration ending the Korean War, and that concrete steps toward denuclearization should come first.
The official Korean Central News Agency said late Saturday in a commentary that Kono’s remarks were “nothing but a cry of distress of those being isolated” and that they highlighted “Japan’s wicked intention … to poke its nose into the regional issue by inciting the atmosphere of confrontation.”
“The trend of the times is going toward dialogue and peace, and no one can deny and go against it,” the commentary went on.
Kono met with U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun on Friday and the two pledged close cooperation between the allies and with South Korea, in their bid to see the North relinquish its nuclear weapons.
During their talks, Kono and Biegun also discussed Pyongyang’s repeated calls for adopting a war-ending declaration. At a news conference the same day, Kono said it was too early to adopt such a declaration, stressing that the declaration should follow concrete steps by North Korea toward giving up its nuclear arsenal.
Saturday’s commentary called lack of a declaration an “extremely abnormal situation,” and said Pyongyang was working “to completely remove the danger of an armed conflict and the fear of war on the Korean peninsula.”
But, it went on, “durable peace can be achieved on the Korean peninsula when the physical war state is ended. And this is a prerequisite for peace.”
The North’s push for such a declaration is expected to be taken up by Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in this week, when the two leaders meet in Pyongyang for their third summit.
Amid its detente with Washington and Seoul, Pyongyang has focused its vitriol on Tokyo, which it has called “the sworn enemy of the Korean nation,” with near-daily rhetorical attacks on and criticisms of Japan.
Japan, which colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, has long been a favorite boogeyman of the North. Its atrocities during this period, coupled with North Korean founder Kim Il Sung’s purported heroic struggles against Imperial Japan, form the ideological foundation of the country and the political legitimacy of the Kim dynasty, experts say.
Tokyo, which does not have formal diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, currently appears isolated amid the high-stakes U.S.-North Korean rapprochement, after months of being one of the most vociferous proponents of Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy toward the North.
Amid the easing tensions, Japan has pledged to normalize bilateral ties with the North and extend “economic assistance” to it if the nuclear, ballistic missile issues — as well as the issue of the Japanese nationals abducted in the 1970s and 1980s — are all resolved.
The North, however, has balked at these offers, instead demanding reparations and an apology for Japan’s colonial rule.