Asia Pacific / Politics

North Korea says inclusion on U.S. terror report closing door to dialogue

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

North Korea lashed out at the U.S. on Tuesday after Washington redesignated it a state sponsor of terrorism last week, warning that the United States’ “hostile policy” was closing the door to continued dialogue.

In a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, an unidentified spokesperson for the North’s Foreign Ministry rejected the report, labeling it “a grave politically-motivated provocation … full of all sorts of falsity and fabrication.”

“The U.S. persistently tries to brand the DPRK as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ at a sensitive time when the DPRK-U.S. dialogue is at a stalemate,” the spokesperson said, using the formal name for the North, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “This is an insult to and perfidy against the DPRK, dialogue partner.

“The channel of the dialogue between the DPRK and the U.S. is more and more narrowing due to such attitude and stand of the U.S.,” the spokesperson added.

The U.S. State Department’s “Country Reports on Terrorism 2018” report released Friday reaffirmed North Korea’s redesignation as a state sponsor of terrorism, saying “the DPRK government repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, as the DPRK was implicated in assassinations on foreign soil.”

Four North Koreans have been implicated in the February 2017 assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong Un. It is widely believed the murder, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, was carried out on the orders of the North Korean leader.

As for U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks, South Korea’s spy agency said Monday that a new round of working-level discussions was likely to be held this month or early next month, with leader Kim Jong Un eyeing a December summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) told a closed-door parliamentary audit session that it “expected the working-level talks to resume no later than early December,” Rep. Lee Eun-jae of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party was quoted as saying.

“As the two sides identified each other’s stance in their Stockholm talks in October, the time appears to be coming for them to launch full-fledged consultations,” Lee said.

Another lawmaker, Rep. Kim Min-ki of the ruling Democratic Party, said the NIS “thinks Kim has set his mind on another summit in December.”

The spy agency is also “closely watching” the possibility of Kim visiting China within the year, according to lawmakers on the panel.

It remains unclear if Trump would accept a proposal for a December summit with Kim, and what could be gained from a third meeting.

The nuclear negotiations have effectively been deadlocked since working-level talks early last month ended with the North’s new top negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, saying they had broken off “entirely due to the United States’ failure to abandon its outdated viewpoint and attitude.”

Washington has said it is open to returning to the talks, with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claiming that the U.S. side attended the October talks “with a set of ideas.” But the dramatic breakup of those negotiations has left many observers wondering if they will resume.

Senior North Korean officials have criticized the U.S. over its position in the talks, with Pyongyang’s former top nuclear negotiator blasting Washington’s “delaying tactics” late last month and warning of a failure to heed Kim’s deadline for a “bold decision” by the end of the year.

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