Saturday 20 October 2018

North Korea calls American stance in showdown Pompeo talks 'regrettable'

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) shakes hands with Kim Yong Chol (R), a North Korean senior ruling party official and former intelligence chief. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) shakes hands with Kim Yong Chol (R), a North Korean senior ruling party official and former intelligence chief. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Matthew Lee in Tokyo

North Korea said yesterday that high-level talks with a US delegation led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were "regrettable" and accused Washington of trying to unilaterally pressure the country into abandoning its nukes.

The North's statement came hours after Pompeo wrapped up two days of talks with senior North Korean officials without meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un but with commitments for new discussions on denuclearisation and the repatriation of the remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean War.

Before departing Pyongyang, Pompeo told reporters that his conversations with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol had been "productive", conducted "in good faith" and that "a great deal of progress" had been made in some areas. He stressed that "there's still more work to be done" in other areas, much of which would be done by working groups that the two sides have set up to deal with specific issues.

The North provided a much harsher assessment of the talks. In a statement released by an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman, the North accused the US of betraying the spirit of last month's summit between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim by making "one-sided and robber-like" demands on "CVID", or the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of North Korea.

It said the outcome of the follow-up talks was "very concerning" because it has led to a "dangerous phase that might rattle our willingness for denuclearisation that had been firm".

"We had expected that the US side would offer constructive measures that would help build trust based on the spirit of the leaders' summit... we were also thinking about providing reciprocal measures," said the statement, carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

"However, the attitude and stance the US showed in the first high-level meeting was no doubt regrettable," the spokesman said. "Our expectations and hopes were so naive it could be called foolish."

According to the spokesman, during the talks with Pompeo, the North raised the issue of a possible declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded with an armistice and not a peace treaty. It also offered to discuss the closure of a missile engine test site that would "physically affirm" a move to halt the production of intercontinental range ballistic missiles and setting up working-level discussions for the return of US war remains.

However, the spokesman said the US came up with a variety of "conditions and excuses" to delay a declaration on ending the war. The spokesman also downplayed the significance of the US suspending its military exercises with South Korea, saying the North made a larger concession by blowing up the tunnels at its nuclear test site.

In criticising the talks with Pompeo, however, the North carefully avoided attacking Trump, saying "we wholly maintain our trust toward President Trump", but also that Washington must not allow "headwinds" against the "wills of the leaders".

Pompeo said that a Pentagon team would be meeting with North Korean officials on or about July 12 at the border between North and South Korea to discuss the repatriation of remains and that working-level talks would be held soon on the destruction of North Korea's missile engine testing facility.

In the days following his historic June 12 summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore, Trump had announced that the return of the remains and the destruction of the missile facility had been completed or were in progress.

Pompeo, however, said more talks were needed on both.

"We now have a meeting set up for July 12 - it could move by one day or two - where there will be discussions between the folks responsible for the repatriation of remains. It will take place at the border and that process will begin to develop over the days that follow," he said as he boarded his plane for Tokyo.

On the destruction of the missile engine plant, Pompeo said: "We talked about what the modalities would look like for the destruction of that facility as well, and some progress there as well, and then we have laid out a path for further negotiation at the working level so the two teams can get together and continue these discussions."

Earlier, Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol both said they needed clarity on the parameters of an agreement to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula that Trump and Kim Jong-un agreed to in Singapore. The trip was Pompeo's third to Pyongyang since April and his first since the summit.

© Associated Press

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