A senior North Korean official on Tuesday warned of an “undesired consequence” for the U.S. if Washington does not adjust its policy on North Korea’s denuclearization by an end-of-the-year deadline leader Kim Jong Un has set.
“Our determination for denuclearization remains unchanged, and when the time comes, we will put it into practice. But, this is possible only under the condition that the U.S. changes their current method of calculation and formulates a new stand,” North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, a key figure in nuclear negotiations with the United States, was quoted by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency as saying.
The nuclear talks have stalled since the second summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump collapsed in February with no deal on the North’s denuclearization.
At a meeting of the North’s rubber-stamp parliament in April, Kim said he is willing to meet with Trump for a third time for nuclear talks — if Washington comes to the table with the “correct posture” — but laid down a year-end deadline “for a bold decision from the U.S.”
Choe pinned much of the blame for the deadlock on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, rapping the top American diplomat over an interview on CBS last week in which he said Washington could “change paths” if the talks faltered.
Choe was quoted as saying that those comments implied a potential use of military pressure, blasting them as “foolish and dangerous” and “designed to bring down our system at any cost.”
In the CBS interview, Pompeo brushed aside a call by another senior North Korean Foreign Ministry official for him to be replaced in talks by someone more “mature,” saying it had come from “a midlevel guy.” Pompeo said last week he would remain in charge of the U.S. negotiating team.
Choe referenced Kim’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, saying that the North Korean leader had “strongly berated the unilateral and dishonest attitude of the United States and stated that … the DPRK will be prepared to deal with every possible scenario” at those talks.
“As for the so-called ‘change paths’ talked about by the United States, it is not a privileged right that pertains only to the U.S., but it could also be our choice at our own will,” she said.
“In case the U.S. is messing the problem and wandering along the other road like now, and would not formulate their position anew within the time frame set by our side, they will indeed face an undesired consequence.”
While Choe did not elaborate as to what that consequence might mean, it could suggest a resumption of nuclear or missile tests by the North.
Choe said in March that the country was rethinking whether to continue talks with the U.S., adding that Kim would decide soon whether to stay on the track of dialogue and maintain its informal nuclear and missile moratorium.
Around the end of 2017, North Korea informally adopted a freeze on missile flight tests, and in April last year, it declared a “suspension” of nuclear and long-range missile tests.
Choe, who was a minor player on the North’s U.S. diplomatic team in the 1990s, has seen her influence surge since the Hanoi summit, observers of the isolated country have said.
In April, she was elevated to the post of first vice foreign minister and became a member of the powerful State Affairs Commission. She has also held several news conferences in the wake of the Hanoi summit, often conveying Kim’s thinking to the outside world.
Pompeo said Tuesday that Washington remains ready to engage North Korea in nuclear talks, showing little concern for Pyongyang’s latest attack against him.
“We’re prepared to engage in conversations to arrive at a process by which the North Koreans can see their way clear to fulfilling the commitment that Chairman Kim made back in Singapore in June of last year,” Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News.
Pompeo was referring to the first Trump-Kim summit, a meeting that resulted in a vaguely worded pledge “to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Experts say that despite the statement, the North never agreed to relinquish its nuclear arsenal, a view that has proven at odds with the Trump administration’s stance.