- Published in Cuba
SEOUL/TOKYO (Reuters) - North Korea accused the United States on Saturday of making “gangster-like” demands in talks over its nuclear program, contradicting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hours after he left saying the old enemies had made progress on key issues.
During a day and a half of talks in Pyongyang, Pompeo had sought to hammer out details on how to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear programs, including a timeline.
As he departed, he said he had made progress on “almost all of the central issues,” although work remained to be done.
Hours later, Pyongyang gave a much more negative assessment, saying Washington had broken the spirit of last month’s summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“The U.S. side came up only with its unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization,” a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
He said Pompeo’s delegation insisted on unilateral complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, known as CVID. He argued instead for both sides to take a series of simultaneous steps as a “shortcut” to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
“The high-level talks this time brought us in a dangerous situation where we may be shaken in our unshakable will for denuclearization, rather than consolidating trust between the DPRK and the U.S.”
There was no immediate comment on the KCNA statement from the State Department or the White House. The contrasting comments raised questions over whether North Korea is committed to abandoning the nuclear programs it has developed for decades and has seen as key to its survival.
Trump and Kim pledged at their June 12 summit meeting in Singapore to move toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Trump has declared on Twitter that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat.
But Kim has yet to provide details of how or when North Korea might dismantle a weapons program that Trump has vowed will not be allowed to threaten the United States. Also, leaked U.S. intelligence findings concluded North Korea does not intend to completely give up its nuclear program.
On Saturday, Pompeo said he spent “a good deal of time” in the latest talks discussing a denuclearization timeline and the declaration of the North’s nuclear and missile facilities.
“These are complicated issues but we made progress on almost all of the central issues. Some places a great deal of progress, other places there’s still more work to be done,” he said, according to a pool report from U.S. reporters who accompanied him to Pyongyang.
“The North Koreans are in the game to get, not to give,” said Daniel Russel, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia until last year.
“They have gotten the U.S. to back off military exercises, back off using ‘CVID’, back off the ‘Libya model’ of rapid denuclearization, back off on human rights, and to look the other way while China relaxes sanctions implementation. So why wouldn’t Kim Jong Un dig in his heels with Pompeo and press his advantage?”
Abraham Denmark, a senior defense official for East Asia under former President Barack Obama, said: “This is a rejection of U.S. demands for unilateral denuclearization by North Korea, and a clear message that the U.S. will need to give up more to make progress.”
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo had been “very firm” on three basic goals: complete denuclearization of North Korea, security assurances and repatriation of remains of Americans killed in the 1950-53 Korean War.
Pompeo said the two sides agreed to hold discussions on July 12 on repatriation, and also discussed “modalities” for destruction of a missile engine testing facility.
KCNA said the North also offered to discuss declaring a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War marking next month’s anniversary of the armistice agreement, but the U.S. side showed little interest, giving “certain conditions and excuses.”
Nauert said the July 12 meeting, along the border between North and South Korea, would be at working level and involve U.S. Defense Department officials.
Pompeo did not meet Kim as he had done on two previous visits to North Korea this year, but handed over a letter to him from Trump.
A letter from Kim to Trump was also delivered to Pompeo through Kim Yong Chol, a top North Korean party official and former spy agency chief, who was Pompeo’s interlocutor and played a key role in arranging the Singapore summit.
In the letter, Kim Jong Un expressed his “expectation and conviction” that future dialogue would further consolidate the sentiments of good faith between the two leaders, KCNA said.
“We still cherish our good faith in President Trump,” the spokesman said.
Asked about reports based on U.S. intelligence assessments that North Korea had continued to develop its nuclear facilities even while engaging in dialogue, Pompeo said:
“We talked about what the North Koreans are continuing to do and how it’s the case that we can get our arms around achieving what Chairman Kim and President Trump both agreed to, which is the complete denuclearization of North Korea.
“Chairman Kim is ... still committed” to that goal, Pompeo said, and he reiterated that Trump was “committed to a brighter future for North Korea”.
The U.S.-North Korea talks are being closely watched across Asia. Pompeo is due to meet in Tokyo on Sunday with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Some U.S. experts on North Korea said the ongoing disputes show the risk of Washington granting premature concessions to Pyongyang. Many were surprised when Trump agreed at the summit in Singapore to end joint military exercises with South Korea.
A senior official of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party departed Tuesday for Cuba, Pyongyang's state media reported without elaborating on the purpose of his trip.
Ri Su-yong, a vice chairman of the ruling party's Central Committee, is leading the North's delegation, the Korean Central News Agency said.
Ri was spotted at an airport in Moscow en route to Cuba. A diplomatic source said that Ri would visit from Thursday to next Monday. Details about his itinerary in Russia were not known.
Ri's trip came after Miguel Diaz-Canel was elected the island nation's new president in April to succeed Raul Castro, who took over the presidency in 2006.
Observers said that Ri's visit appears intended to celebrate the launch of the new Cuban leadership and strengthen party-to-party exchanges.
Shortly after Diaz-Canel's election, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a congratulatory message to the newly elected leader, who later sent a reply voicing his desire to deepen bilateral ties.
US President Donald Trump has once again baffled the international community, as he claimed that it was him who actually saved the world from a potentially devastating conflict between Washington and Pyongyang.
“If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!” Trump said in a Twitter post on Tuesday as he rejoiced the “many good conversations with North Korea,” which he said are “going well.” He then apparently also took the credit for the absence of any North Korean missile launches and nuclear tests over the last eight months.
Pyongyang indeed ceased its nuclear and missile activities for quite some time, although it remains doubtful whether it was actually a result of the US “maximum pressure” policy, which was so adamantly championed by Trump not so long ago. When the situation around the Korean Peninsula heated up following the North’s nuclear and missile tests in early September 2017, the US leader actually opted for open confrontation, albeit only verbally, rather than for diplomatic efforts.
In October 2017, he actually declared all talks with Pyongyang were pointless, as he said that “only one thing will work,” while lambasting the then-US State Secretary Rex Tillerson for “wasting his time trying to negotiate with the Little Rocket Man” – a derogatory nickname Trump coined for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The US leader then repeatedly said that “talking is not the answer” to the Korean crisis, adding that “talk of appeasement” will not “work” with North Korea, and he even resorted to open threats of war. Speaking at the annual General Debate of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly back in September 2017, Trump famously said that the US “will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” if forced to defend itself and its allies. He also warned that Washington would not hesitate to use its “nuclear capabilities” to defend itself and its allies.
Russia has repeatedly warned the US against taking military action against North Korea, advocating for a diplomatic approach instead. Russia’s Foreign Ministry particularly called on the US and its major ally in the region, South Korea, to take “adequate steps” and reduce their military activity in the region to avoid further escalation. While supporting a number of UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea, Moscow cautioned that the US-led drills are “provoking” Kim Jong-un into striving for new weapons.
In September 2017, Moscow and Beijing put forward a ‘double freeze’ plan calling for a simultaneous halt to North Korea’s tests and the US’ war games in the region. However, Washington ignored these calls and continued its maximum pressure and a bellicose line at that time.
Even when Pyongyang engaged in the first direct negotiations with Seoul over two years in early 2018, Trump was still full of skepticism and ready to resort to a military option. “I am not sure that talks will lead to anything meaningful,” he said at that time, adding that it was “very possible” that the standoff with North Korea might not be resolved peacefully.
At some points, the US president was so carried away by his war of words with the North Korean leader that it resulted in some blunders. On one such occasion, Trump famously bragged that his nuclear button was “much bigger and more powerful” than Kim Jong-un's.
North Korea also initially did not hesitate to issue belligerent statements, as it also threatened to “annihilate” the US and turn it into “ashes,” as well as to “sink” Japan and “wipe out” South Korea. However, it was Pyongyang that eventually decided to halt its nuclear and missile tests while Kim Jong-un sent a personal invitation to Trump to discuss the possible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
It was only after the negotiations between two Koreas turned out to be largely successful and they were actually followed by the first meeting between the North and South Korean leaders since 2007, that Trump suddenly changed his rhetoric. He jumped from mocking the North Korean leader to calling him “very honorable.”
This trend continued after the historic meeting between the US and North Korean leaders in Singapore. Following the talks, Trump declared that there was “no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,” and actually praised Kim’s leadership and said that they had a “very good relationship,” as well as “good chemistry.”
Still, the US president also claimed back in April that it was his “maximum pressure” approach that actually worked. In fact, though, it seems that it was actually the “double freeze” plan, advocated by Russia and China from the very beginning of the recent Korean crisis, that the US and North Korean leaders followed to at least start to resolve their differences.
Kim Jong Un, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, received a reply message from Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, president of the Council of State and president of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, on June 28.
The message expressed sincere thanks to Kim Jong Un for expressing profound condolences and close solidarity in the period during which Cuba feels pain over the tragic passenger plane accident which occurred on May 18, on behalf of the people and government of Cuba and the bereaved families of the victims.
U.S. President Donald Trump "did not like" the meeting that took place between Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un this week.
Immediately after saying he "did not like" the meeting, however, Trump said in the White House briefing that he could "love it" if it is "a positive meeting" – further compounding the already clumsy statement.
"I did not like the Russian meeting yesterday, as what's the purpose of this meeting? But it could be a positive meeting. If it is a positive meeting, I love it. If it is a negative meeting, I am not happy. And it could be very well a positive meeting," Trump said.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov had held a productive meeting with Kim in Pyongyang earlier this week, when they advanced bilateral relations and reaffirmed commitment to denuclearize. A letter from Vladimir Putin was also given to Kim.
Trump on Friday received a letter from Kim Jong-un, but did not reveal what the letter said other than to observe that it was "very nice."
"That letter was a very nice letter. Oh, would you like to see what was in that letter? Would you like? How much? How much?" the president quipped.
Trump also confirmed he will be meeting with Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12, as originally planned. Trump had earlier canceled the meeting, but then executed a u-turn and reinitiated talks with Korean officials.
SEOUL: The leaders of North and South Korea met on Friday (Apr 27) at the Demilitarised Zone that divides their countries for a historic summit, the highest-level encounter yet in a recent whirlwind of nuclear diplomacy.
The meeting on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom - only the third of its kind since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War - is intended to pave the way for a much-anticipated encounter between the North's leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in greeted Kim at the concrete blocks that mark the border between the two Koreas in the Demilitarised Zone to begin the rare occasion laden with symbolism. Kim also became the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since the Korean War ended 65 years ago.
"I am happy to meet you," said Moon to Kim. Moon also briefly stepped into the North before walking back.
"A new history begins now - at the starting point of history and the era of peace," read the message Kim wrote in a guestbook at the Peace House summit venue.
At Kim's impromptu invitation the two men briefly crossed hand-in-hand into the North before walking to the Peace House building on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom for the summit - only the third of its kind since hostilities ceased in 1953.
Kim was "flooded with emotion", he told Moon as the meeting began.
"I came here determined to send a starting signal at the threshold of a new history," he said, promising a "frank, serious and honest mindset".
With the North's atomic arsenal high on the agenda, Moon responded that he hoped they would reach "a bold agreement so that we may give a big gift to the whole Korean people and the people who want peace".
Kim was flanked by his sister and close adviser Kim Yo Jong and the North's head of inter-Korean relations, while Moon was accompanied by his spy chief and chief of staff.
With helicopters buzzing overhead, President Moon left his Blue House office in a convoy of more than a dozen vehicles along a road lined with well-wishers waving Korean flags.
Before his departure, a smiling Moon stopped to greet supporters and thank police officers.
The North's nuclear arsenal will be high on the agenda at the talks.
Last year, Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear blast, by far its most powerful to date, and launched missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.
Its actions sent tensions soaring as Kim and Trump traded personal insults and threats of war.
Moon seized on the South's Winter Olympics as an opportunity to broker dialogue between them, and has said his meeting with Kim will serve to set up the summit between Pyongyang and Washington.
Trump has demanded the North give up its weapons, and Washington is pressing for it to do so in a complete, verifiable and irreversible way.
But Seoul played down expectations on Thursday, saying the North's technological advances with its nuclear and missile programmes meant any deal would be "fundamentally different in nature from denuclearisation agreements in 1990s and early 2000s".
"That's what makes this summit all the more difficult," the chief of the South's presidential secretariat Im Jong-seok told reporters.
PEACE AND DENUCLEARISATION
Pyongyang is demanding as yet unspecified security guarantees to discuss its arsenal.
When Kim visited the North's key backer Beijing last month in only his first foreign trip as leader, China's official Xinhua news agency cited him saying that the issue could be resolved, as long as Seoul and Washington take "progressive and synchronous measures for the realisation of peace".
In the past, North Korean support for "denuclearisation" of the Korean peninsula has been code for the removal of US troops from the South and the end of its nuclear umbrella over its security ally - prospects unthinkable in Washington.
"The big issues we know are peace and denuclearisation," Yonsei University professor John Delury told AFP.
The two Koreas "can do a lot more on peace than on denuclearisation", he said, but the post-summit statement will give "a lot of chance to analyse every word, reading between the lines, look for things that are there and not there".
Pyongyang announced last week a moratorium on nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missiles, adding it would dismantle its Punggye-ri nuclear test site.
But it also said it had completed the development of its weapons and had no need for further tests.
Seoul has also promoted the idea of opening talks towards a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, when hostilities stopped with a ceasefire, leaving the neighbours technically in a state of conflict.
Reunions of families left divided by the war could also be discussed at the summit, and Moon has told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe he will raise the emotive subject of Japanese citizens kidnapped by the North.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has emerged a winner in the latest crisis around the Korean Peninsula, Russian president Vladimir Putin said. He believes Pyongyang is now trying to defuse tensions.
“I believe, Mr Kim Jong-un has certainly won this round,” Putin told journalists at a meeting with the Russian media. He said North Korea has achieved its strategic goal.
“He has a nuclear [charge] and a … missile with a range of up to 13,000 kilometers that can reach almost any place on Earth or at least any territory of his potential adversary,” Putin told journalists on Thursday. The Russian president said the North Korean leader is likely to be seeking an easing of tensions in the region.
“He is already an absolutely shrewd and mature politician,” Putin added.
The latest crisis around the Korean Peninsula broke out in September 2017 after Pyongyang claimed it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test. The US responded to North Korean actions by flexing its muscles and conducting a number of military drills in the region with its allies South Korea and Japan. North Korea replied to this saber-rattling by conducting several missile tests, including one, according to Pyongyang, involving an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Both Pyongyang and Washington, along with its allies, added further fuel to the fire by issuing repeated threats against one another. US President Donald Trump repeatedly said the US could use a “military option” in dealing with the crisis and even threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” during the annual General Debate of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. More recently Trump said in a Twitter post that his “nuclear button” is “bigger and more powerful.”
Russia and China, by contrast, have called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis from from the outset. Moscow and Beijing put forward a “double freeze” initiative that envisaged the US and its allies halting all major military exercises in the region in exchange for Pyongyang suspending its nuclear and ballistic missile program. The initiative was, however, turned down by Washington.
Russia also repeatedly called on all parties involved in the Korean crisis to “break the vicious cycle of confrontation, reckless schemes and sanctions” and engage into a meaningful dialog instead. In December, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said North Korea wants to engage in a direct dialog with the US to assure its security, adding that Russia could help with these talks.
In January, Pyongyang and Seoul agreed to hold high-level bilateral talks to discuss the North’s potential participation in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, as well as other issues related to improving relations. The move followed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year message, in which he wished success for the 2018 Olympics.
During the talks held on January 9, the two sides agreed on the participation of North Korean athletes in the South Korean Olympics. They also discussed the potential reunification of families separated by the Korean War. In a significant breakthrough, the two Koreas agreed on talks between army officials in order to avoid dangerous military incidents.
Pyongyang’s chief negotiator, however said there was no need to discuss the North Korean nuclear program because all its weapons “are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia.” Trump meanwhile has claimed it was his aggressive stance that made the negotiations between two Koreas possible.