Asia Pacific

Top North Korean official warns U.S. not to 'test our patience,' as appetite for nuclear talks fades

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

A top North Korean official has said expectations for talks with the United States over its nuclear weapons program “are fading away” after “offensive” remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“To avoid terrible regrets, the United States should not test our patience with offensive comments,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui as saying Saturday in reference to remarks by Pompeo.

In a speech Tuesday apparently intended to highlight the challenges facing the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, Pompeo had referred to North Korea’s “rogue” behavior as negotiations on dismantling the country’s nuclear weapons program have remained deadlocked.

“Our expectations for dialogue with the United States are fading away, and we are in a situation where we must reconsider all our actions so far,” Choe said.

Choe, known to be close to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, reports to Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, her direct superior. This year, she became the highest-ranking female diplomat in North Korean history.

Pompeo has been the subject of much of Pyongyang’s ire in recent months, with Ri earlier last month calling the top U.S. diplomat the “diehard toxin of U.S. diplomacy” who employs “hackneyed sanctions rhetoric.”

Ri referred to Pompeo’s remarks in recent media interviews in which he said sanctions would not be eased until North Korea took concrete actions on denuclearization.

“He is truly impudent enough to utter such thoughtless words which only leave us disappointed and sceptical as to whether we can solve any problem with such a guy,” Ri said in a statement dated Aug. 23.

Choe also took aim at Pompeo in late April, warning that his words could prompt 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 set by Kim.

While talks have been on ice, the North has conducted a total of at least 11 apparent ballistic missile launches overseen by Kim this year, including eight in the last five weeks. The pace comes close to matching the frantic speed of testing in 2017, when Trump and Kim traded insults and threats.

Negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington for the North to relinquish its nukes have been stalled since late June, when Trump held an impromptu meeting with Kim at the Demilitarized Zone at the two Koreas’ border. That meeting ended with the two promising to return to the talks in the near future, but a restart has yet to happen.