US Slaps Sanctions Over N.Korea Workers But Appeals For Dialogue

File Photo: Nicholas Kamm / AFP

 

The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on two companies for exploiting North Korean overseas labor but joined allies Japan and South Korea in appealing for diplomacy to ease tensions with Pyongyang.

Showing a united front, Japan’s defense and foreign ministers and South Korea’s foreign minister all held talks with American counterparts Tuesday on both coasts, two weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened to launch a new weapon.

In a UN-backed bid to curb North Korea’s cash flow, the United States announced that it was freezing any US assets of the two companies and making any transactions with them a crime.

The Treasury Department targeted the Korea Namgang Trading Corporation, a North Korean firm which it said has maintained workers in Russia, Nigeria and the Middle East.

It also blacklisted Beijing Sukbakso, a Chinese company that has handled lodging and remittances for workers.

“The exportation of North Korean workers raises illicit revenue for the government of North Korea in violation of UN sanctions,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Under a UN resolution unanimously approved in 2017, countries had until December 22 last year to send back all workers from North Korea.

Human rights groups have charged that the workers live in virtually slavery-like conditions, with proceeds going to the cash-strapped regime in Pyongyang.

US officials said in 2017 that North Korea had some 100,000 overseas workers, bringing in $500 million a year.

The vast majority work in China and Russia although some have been seen around the world including in Eastern Europe, according to a study by the East-West Center.

The North Koreans are most frequently seen on construction sites, performing labor for long hours and staying in isolated housing.

The 2017 resolution came after nuclear and missile tests by North Korea, but US President Donald Trump soon afterward opened talks with North Korea, holding three landmark meetings with Kim.

The regime had been pressing unsuccessfully for the United States to remove sanctions in return and had set a New Year’s deadline.

– Growing unity among allies –
In a January 1 speech, Kim warned that he will no longer abide by the moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and said Pyongyang would test a destructive new weapon.

Asked Tuesday if North Korea had made an idle threat, Defense Secretary Mike Esper declined to speculate but said the United States was prepared.

“We’ll see what happens. It’s in Kim Jong Un’s hands what he intends to do,” Esper told a news conference at the Pentagon with his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono.

“We continue to send a message that we remain ready to fight tonight if necessary,” he said.

But he stressed: “The best path forward is through a diplomatic solution that results in the denuclearization of North Korea.”

Kono said that Japan, which has especially tense relations with North Korea, supported US pressure on Pyongyang.

Japan hopes that “Kim Jong Un can come to dialogue and, hopefully, he will make the right decision for his own people,” he said.

Esper emphasized unity with Japan and South Korea, mutual US allies whose relations sharply soured last year over disputes linked to Tokyo’s colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.

But tensions have since eased, with South Korea in November backing down on scrapping a military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.

The Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers, Toshimitsu Motegi and Kang Kyung-hwa, met jointly Tuesday near San Francisco with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The three “stressed that trilateral cooperation is essential to ensure the future of peace in the region,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

Trump Hopes For Christmas Vase, Not Missile Test, From North Korea

 

 

 

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he hoped that North Korea would not deliver a missile test as its threatened “Christmas gift” that could reignite global tensions over its nuclear program.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has promised the unidentified “gift” — which could be a missile test — if the US does not make concessions in nuclear talks by the end of the year.

“We’ll find out what the surprise is and we’ll deal with it very successfully,” Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

“Everybody’s got surprises for me, but let’s see what happens. I handle them as they come along.”

“Maybe it’s a nice present, maybe it’s a present where he sends me a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test,” the president joked.

Talks on denuclearization as been largely deadlocked since a second summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi collapsed at the start of this year.

Pyongyang has issued a series of increasingly assertive comments as its time limit approaches.

It has carried out a series of static tests at its Sohae rocket facility this month, after a number of weapons launch in recent weeks.

AFP

China Hosts Leaders Of Japan, South Korea Over Looming North Korea Tension

 

 

China hosted the leaders of squabbling neighbours South Korea and Japan for their first official meeting in over a year on Tuesday, flexing its diplomatic muscle with America’s two key Asian allies and seeking unity on how to deal with a belligerent North Korea.

The gathering in the southwestern city of Chengdu was held with the clock ticking on a threatened “Christmas gift” from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that could reignite global tensions over its nuclear programme.

Kim has promised the unidentified “gift” — which analysts and American officials believe could be a provocative missile test — if the US does not make concessions in their nuclear talks by the end of the year.

The gathering also featured the first bilateral meeting between South Korea’s Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 15 months.

Ties between the two have hit rock bottom lately over trade issues and other disputes related to decades of bitter wrangling over Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula.

The United States has urged the pair to bury the hatchet — worried their poor relations were complicating diplomacy in Asia — although it has held off on direct mediation.

China is appearing to fill that void with the Chengdu event.

“As the region’s major power, China hopes to show its diplomatic presence to the world by bringing the Japanese and South Korean leaders to the same table,” Haruko Satoh, professor and expert on Chinese politics at Osaka University, told AFP.

– ‘Severe’ situation –

Before leaving for China, Abe told reporters that links with Seoul remained “severe”.

But Abe and Moon were photographed smiling and shaking hands, and made positive overtures at the start of their bilateral meeting.

The relationship between Japan and both Koreas is overshadowed by the 35 years of brutal colonisation by the Japanese — including the use of sex slaves and forced labour — that is still bitterly resented today.

Ties began a downward spiral in recent months after a series of South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese firms to compensate wartime forced labour victims.

These infuriated Tokyo, who insisted the matter had been settled by a 1965 treaty between the two countries.

Seoul then threatened to withdraw from a key military intelligence-sharing pact, although it reversed course in November and agreed to extend it “conditionally”.

Abe said he hoped “to improve the important Japan-South Korea relations and to exchange candid opinions”, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

On Tuesday, Seoul’s presidential Blue House said Moon described the two countries as “the closest neighbours geographically, historically and culturally”.

But at a press conference after the bilateral, Abe said it was “South Korea’s responsibility” to resolve the issues.

“I urge the South Korean side to get the ball rolling to regain the soundness of Japan-South Korea relations,” he said.

– Reversed course –

After the meeting with China, both Japan and South Korea urged the resumption of talks between Pyongyang and Washington — which have been largely deadlocked since a second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Kim in Hanoi collapsed at the start of this year.

The leaders of the three countries also promised to help promote dialogue to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

Also on Tuesday, North Korean state media slammed Tokyo as a “political dwarf”, saying its weapons tests “pose no threat” to Japan.

Still, if the North fired an intercontinental ballistic missile in defiance of UN sanctions, it would destroy Trump’s argument that he had succeeded in reducing risks from North Korea.

Former US national security adviser John Bolton, who was dismissed in September, on Monday criticised Trump’s strategy and warned the North posed an immediate threat.

“The risk to US forces & our allies is imminent & more effective policy is required before NK has the technology to threaten the American homeland,” tweeted Bolton.

US ‘Prepared For Whatever’ From North Korea, Says Pentagon

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley hold an end of year press conference at the Pentagon on December 20, 2019 in Arlington, Virginia. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

The Pentagon’s top general said Friday the US military is ready for anything from North Korea in the face of Pyongyang’s ominous promise of a “Christmas gift” if Washington does not act to ease tensions.

“Korea is one of those places in the world where we’ve always maintained high levels of readiness,” said General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The US alliance with Japan and South Korea is “rock-solid,” he said.

“I think it’s prepared to defend the interests of the United States, Japan and South Korea at a moment’s notice,” he told reporters.

Milley declined to say whether US and allied forces in the region had stepped up readiness in the face of the possibility that North Korea could test a new nuclear-capable missile in the near future.

“North Korea has indicated a variety of things. And I think you’re aware of all those. So we are prepared for whatever,” he said.

Speaking next to Milley, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the US was ready “to fight tonight” if necessary, but stressed the need for diplomacy with North Korea.

“I remain hopeful that we could get the process started again and remain on the diplomatic path,” Esper said.

Pyongyang has shown frustration at the lack of sanctions relief after three summits with President Donald Trump.

Earlier this month it promised a “Christmas gift” if the US does not come up with concessions by the end of the year after it placed a moratorium on long-range missile tests.

US-North Korea negotiator Stephen Biegun — just confirmed to the number two position in the State Department — visited Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing this week for discussions on the regional security situation.

In Seoul, he called Pyongyang’s comments “so hostile and negative and so unnecessary.”

He challenged North Korea to restart discussions.

“It is time for us to do our jobs. Let’s get this done. We are here and you know how to reach us.”

A provocative missile test, he added,  “will be most unhelpful in achieving lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.”

AFP

Nuclear: North Korea Conducts ‘Crucial Test’ – State Media

FILES) In this file photo taken on July 4, 2017, Pyongyang residents watch the news on the successful launch of the intercontinental ballistic missile “Hwasong-14.”  Kim Won-Jin / AFP

 

North Korea has conducted another “crucial test” at its Sohae satellite launch site, state media reported Saturday, as nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington remain stalled with a deadline approaching.

“Another crucial test was successfully conducted at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground from 22:41 to 22:48 on December 13,” a spokesman for the North’s National Academy of Defence Science said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

The “research successes” will be “applied to further bolstering up the reliable strategic nuclear deterrent” of North Korea, the spokesman added.

The announcement comes after the United States tested a medium-range ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean on Thursday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had agreed to shutter the Sohae site during a summit last year with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang as part of trust-building measures.

Frustrated by the lack of sanctions relief after three summits with President Donald Trump, North Korea has vowed an ominous “Christmas gift” if the US does not come up with concessions by the end of the year.

Earlier this month the North announced it conducted a “very important test” at the same site in Sohae.

Pyongyang this week criticised Washington as “foolish” for convening a UN Security Council meeting over growing concern about short-range rockets fired from the isolated state.

AFP

US ‘Foolish’ For Calling UN Security Meeting, Says North Korea

This picture taken on July 25, 2019 and released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 26 shows a new-type of tactical guided short-range missile being launched at an undisclosed location in North Korea.  KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korea’s foreign ministry on Thursday criticised the United States as “foolish” for convening a UN Security Council meeting over growing concern about short-range rockets fired from the isolated state.

Washington on Wednesday used the meeting to warn of consequences for North Korea if it followed through with its promise of an ominous “Christmas gift” in the event that the US does not come up with concessions by the end of the year.

“By arranging the meeting, the U.S. did a foolish thing which will boomerang on it, and decisively helped us make a definite decision on what way to choose,” North Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

Trump has met three times with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to discuss Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, but frustrated North Korea is seeking a comprehensive deal that includes sanctions relief.

“The U.S. talks about dialogue, whenever it opens its mouth, but it is too natural that the U.S. has nothing to present before us though dialogue may open,” it added.

North Korea said it has “nothing to lose more and we are ready to take a countermeasure corresponding to anything that the U.S. opts for”.

At the UN Security Council, US ambassador Kelly Craft voiced concern that North Korea was indicating it would test intercontinental ballistic missiles “which are designed to attack the continental United States with nuclear weapons”.

But she said the United States, which used its presidency of the Security Council to convene the meeting, wanted to work towards a deal.

She appeared, however, to rule out meeting North Korea’s demands for an offer in the final weeks of 2019: “Let me be clear: The United States and the Security Council have a goal — not a deadline.”

AFP

Nuclear: ‘Old Man’ Trump Is ‘Bluffing’, Says North Korea

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC.  MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

North Korea on Monday slammed US President Trump for “bluffing” and called him “an old man bereft of patience” as Pyongyang ramps up pressure on Washington over stalled nuclear talks.

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un engaged in mutual insults and threats of devastation in 2017, sending tensions soaring before a diplomatic rapprochement the following year.

Pyongyang has set Washington an end-of-year time limit to offer it new concessions in deadlocked nuclear negotiations, and has said it will adopt an unspecified “new way” if nothing acceptable is forthcoming.

Denuclearisation negotiations have been at a standstill since a summit in Hanoi broke up in February.

Trump has indicated that the option of military action was still on the table while downplaying Pyongyang’s actions, saying the North’s leader would not want to “interfere” with the upcoming US presidential elections.

“I’d be surprised if North Korea acted hostiley,” Trump said Saturday.

But Kim Yong Chol, who served as the North’s counterpart to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo until the collapse of the Hanoi meeting, slammed Trump’s “odd words and expression”, referring to him as a “heedless and erratic old man”.

“Our action is for his surprise. So, if he does not get astonished, we will be irritated,” Kim, now the chairman of the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

“This naturally indicates that Trump is an old man bereft of patience,” he said, adding: “From those words and expressions we can read how irritated he is now.”

The official noted that the North Korean leader had not used “any irritating expression towards the US president as yet”, but warned his “understanding” of Trump could change.

“He must understand that his own style bluffing and hypocrisy sound rather abnormal and unrealistic to us,” Kim said. “We have nothing more to lose.”

The North has raised tensions in recent months with a series of assertive statements and multiple weapons tests — including a “very important test” at its key satellite launch site at the weekend — as its negotiating time limit approaches.

Kim’s New Year speech, a key political set-piece in the isolated country, is also due on January 1.

On Thursday, the North’s vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui warned of again referring to Trump as a “dotard” — Pyongyang’s favoured nickname for the US president at the height of tensions in 2017.

Another senior official said last week that what gift the US receives for Christmas will depend entirely on Washington’s actions.

AFP

Trump, Moon Agree To Continue Talks With North Korea

US President Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In during a joint press conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on November 7, 2017.  Jim WATSON / AFP

 

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump agreed during a phone conversation to maintain dialogue with the nuclear-armed North, Seoul said Saturday, with the two allies noting the situation had become “grave”. 

Denuclearisation negotiations have been at a standstill since a summit in Hanoi broke up in February and pressure is rising as an end-of-year deadline to offer concessions, set by Pyongyang for Washington, approaches.

The 30-minute talk was the first conversation between the US President and the South Korean leader since they met at the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

“The two leaders shared an assessment that the current situation on the Korean peninsula is grave,” said Ko Min-jung, the spokeswoman of the South’s presidential office.

“They agreed momentum for dialogue to achieve prompt results from denuclearisation negotiations should be continued,” she went on to say, adding that Trump had requested the call.

The discussion came after a week in which exchanges between Trump and North Korea raised the prospect of a return to a war of words, culminating in Pyongyang’s threats to resume referring to the US president as a “dotard” and to take military action if the US military moves against it.

The South Korean leader was instrumental in brokering the landmark summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore last year which produced only a vaguely worded pledge about denuclearisation.

AFP

Nuclear: North Korea Warns Trump Of Retaliatory Attack

Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP / KCNA VIA KNS

 

North Korea on Wednesday warned that if the United States used military force against Pyongyang it would take “prompt corresponding actions at any level”, in response to comments by US President Donald Trump. 

Denuclearisation negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington have been deadlocked since a summit in Hanoi broke up in February, and the renewed threats come as a deadline set by Pyongyang for fresh concessions approaches.

Trump on Tuesday indicated that military action was still possible when he was asked about North Korea on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Britain on Tuesday.

“He definitely likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he? That’s why I call him ‘Rocket Man’,” Trump said of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We have the most powerful military we’ve ever had, and we’re by far the most powerful country in the world. And, hopefully, we don’t have to use it, but if we do, we’ll use it. If we have to, we’ll do it,” Trump added.

Responding on Wednesday Pak Jong Chon, chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said he was “greatly disappointed” by Trump’s comments, the official KCNA news agency said.

He added that “the use of armed forces is not the privilege of the US only”.

“If the US uses any armed forces against the DPRK, we will also take prompt corresponding actions at any level,” he added, using the initials of North Korea’s official name.

North Korea has demanded the US offer it fresh concessions by the end of the year — ahead of Kim’s New Year speech on January 1, a key political set-piece in the isolated country.

Pyongyang has also issued a series of increasingly assertive comments in recent weeks.

Earlier this week, KCNA quoted Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae Song as saying: “What gift the US receives for Christmas depends entirely on the US’ decision.”

AFP

North Korea Fires Two ‘Unidentified Projectiles’ On Thanksgiving

South Korean Army Major General Jeon Dong-jin of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) speaks during a press briefing on North Korea’s projectiles, at the Defence Ministry in Seoul on November 28, 2019. North Korea fired two “unidentified projectiles” on November 28 — the Thanksgiving holiday in the US — Seoul said, as nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington remain deadlocked.
STR / YONHAP / AFP

 

North Korea fired two “unidentified projectiles” on Thursday — the Thanksgiving holiday in the US — Seoul said, as nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington remain deadlocked.

The projectiles were fired eastwards from South Hamgyong province and came down in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

They added that the launch, the latest in a series by Pyongyang, was carried out at 16:59 pm local time (0859 GMT) — or the early hours on the east coast of the United States, during one of the country’s biggest annual holidays.

It was also one day short of the two-year anniversary of the North’s first test of its Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, which analysts say is capable of reaching the entire US mainland.

Pyongyang is banned from firing ballistic missiles under UN Security Council resolutions, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that Thursday’s launch was the latest in a series of violations.

“North Korea’s repeated launches of ballistic missiles are a serious defiance to not only our country but also the international community,” he told reporters in Tokyo.

In Washington, a State Department official said the US was monitoring the situation and consulting with allies in the region.

“We call on North Korea to avoid provocations, abide by obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions, and return to sustained and substantive negotiations to do its part to achieve complete denuclearization,” the official said.

Thursday’s launch came after Pyongyang fired what it called a “super-large multiple rocket launcher” system last month, and the JCS said the latest devices were presumed to be of a similar type.

They flew 380 kilometres (236 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 97 kilometres, the JCS added.

Nuclear negotiations between the US and the North have been at a standstill since the Hanoi summit between President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un broke up in February, and Pyongyang has since demanded Washington change its approach by the end of the year.

“North Korea is growing anxious as its deadline approaches,” said Shin Beom-chul of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

“That’s why it’s carrying out these provocations, which is the typical North Korean playbook to get more concessions from the US.”

Test Moratorium

Last month Pyongyang also claimed to have tested a “new type” of submarine-launched ballistic missile — a potential strategic game-changer.

Trump has played down the recent launches, repeatedly pointing to North Korea’s moratorium on nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches as foreign policy successes for him.

Trump and Kim adopted a vaguely-worded statement on the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula” at their first summit in Singapore in June last year, but little progress has since been made.

North Korea is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes and lifting some of them was a key demand of the North’s in Hanoi.

In June, Trump and Kim agreed to restart working-level talks during a meeting at the Demilitarized Zone dividing the peninsula and the two sides met in Sweden in October, only for Pyongyang to walk away.

Earlier this month, Seoul and Washington said they would postpone planned joint military exercises to ease diplomacy with the North, an announcement Pyongyang dismissed.

The North has long condemned the joint drills, which it calls preparations for invasion, and carried out multiple missile launches in the summer in protest as the allies carried out their annual exercises.

North Korea has issued a series of increasingly assertive comments in recent weeks as time runs down on its end-of-year deadline.

Trump hinted at the prospect of a fourth meeting with Kim in a tweet earlier this month, only to be rebuffed by the North, which said it had no interest in summits “that bring nothing to us”.

North Korea Fires Unidentified Projectile, Says South Korea Military

This picture taken on July 25, 2019 and released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 26 shows a new-type of tactical guided short-range missile being launched at an undisclosed location in North Korea. PHOTO: KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korea fired an “unidentified projectile” on Thursday — the Thanksgiving holiday in the US — Seoul said, as nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington remain deadlocked.

The one-line announcement from the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff did not immediately provide further details and came shortly after 3:00 am (0800 GMT) in Washington, DC on one of the US’ biggest annual holidays.

Thursday’s launch was the latest in a series of weapons tests by Pyongyang, which fired what it called two “super-large multiple rocket launcher” systems last month.

Japan’s Jiji Press quoted sources from the defence ministry in Tokyo saying two projectiles were launched from the North’s east coast, adding they appeared to be ballistic missiles — which Pyongyang is banned from firing under UN Security Council resolutions.

US President Donald Trump has played down the recent launches, repeatedly pointing to North Korea’s moratorium on nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches as foreign policy successes for him.

But negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington have been gridlocked since a second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi in February collapsed without a deal.

North Korea is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes and lifting some of them was a key demand at the Hanoi summit.

Earlier this month, Seoul and Washington said they would postpone planned joint military exercises to ease diplomacy with the North, an announcement Pyongyang dismissed.

North Korea has issued a series of increasingly assertive comments in recent weeks as its end-of-year deadline for the US to come up with a fresh offer approaches.

Trump hinted at the prospect of a fourth meeting with Kim in a tweet earlier this month, only to be rebuffed by the North, which said it had no interest in summits “that bring nothing to us.”

AFP

North Korea ‘No Longer Interested’ In US Summits After Trump Tweets

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 15, 2019 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visiting the Yangdok hot spring resort under construction in South Pyongan Province. KCNA / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP
This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 15, 2019 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visiting the Yangdok hot spring resort under construction in South Pyongan Province. KCNA / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korea is “no longer interested” in summits with the US unless Washington offers new concessions in their nuclear negotiations, Pyongyang said Monday, hours after Donald Trump hinted at the prospect.

“You should act quickly, get the deal done,” Trump tweeted Sunday, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “See you soon!”

Kim and Trump have met three times since June last year, but talks have been gridlocked since their Hanoi summit in February broke up in disagreement over sanctions relief, while October’s working-level talks rapidly broke down in Sweden.

Pyongyang has set Washington a deadline of the end of the year to come forward with a fresh offer, and foreign ministry advisor Kim Kye Gwan said the US was stalling while “pretending it has made progress”.

He interpreted Trump’s tweet as a signal for a new summit, he said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA, but declared: “We are no longer interested in such talks that bring nothing to us.”

“We will no longer gift the US president with something he can boast of,” he went on, adding the North should be compensated for the “successes” that President Trump touted as his own achievements.

The implied criticism of Trump by name is a departure for Pyongyang, which has long limited its frustration to other administration officials.

Last month, adviser Kim declared: “Contrary to the political judgment and intention of President Trump, Washington political circles and DPRK policy makers of the US administration are hostile to the DPRK for no reason,” using the initials of North Korea’s official name.

In September he was fulsome in his praise for the US leader, saying that Trump was “different from his predecessors” and that he placed his hopes in “President Trump’s wise option and bold decision”.

But as the North’s deadline approaches it has issued a series of increasingly assertive statements — while also carrying out a number of weapons launches.

Washington should withdraw its “hostile policy” if it wants dialogue to continue, Kim said Monday, without elaborating further.

Trump’s tweet came after Washington and Seoul agreed to postpone annual joint aerial exercises to create space for diplomacy with Pyongyang, which condemns such drills as preparations for invasion.

 

AFP