US threw away golden opportunity, N Korea says

North Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son Hui (C) arrives for a press conference at the Melia hotel, following the second US-North Korea summit, in Hanoi, Vietnam, 01 March 2019. EPA/STRImage copyright

Image caption

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, seen here during the Hanoi summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may break off denuclearisation talks with the US and resume missile and nuclear testing, a senior official says.

Vice Foreign Minister Choe Sun-hui told foreign diplomats the US threw away “a golden opportunity” at a recent summit between President Trump and Mr Kim.

The meeting collapsed after Mr Trump refused to lift sanctions unless North Korea destroyed all its nuclear sites.

North Korea had offered to dismantle its main Yongbyon nuclear complex.

Mr Kim is set to make an official announcement on his position regarding future talks with the US soon, Ms Choe said in Pyongyang.

“We have no intention to yield to the US demands in any form, nor are we willing to engage in negotiations of this kind,” Ms Choe said according to Russia’s Tass news agency.

“Personal relations between the two supreme leaders are still good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful,” the senior official added.

Ms Choe pointed out that North Korea’s demand during the recent summit was for five key economic sanctions to be lifted, not all sanctions as Mr Trump claimed after talks broke down.

“What is clear is that the US has thrown away a golden opportunity this time,” she said. “I’m not sure why the US came out with this different description. We never asked for the removal of sanctions in their entirety.”

The two leaders first met in Singapore last year, in an unprecedented summit between a US sitting president and a North Korean leader. Their second meeting was in Hanoi in February.

At a news conference after the Hanoi summit, Mr Trump said no plans had been made for a third summit, but he expressed optimism about a “good outcome” in the future.

Door to diplomacy still open

Laure Bicker, BBC Seoul correspondent

So does this mean a return to “fire and fury”? Not quite. North Korea’s tactic might be to hope this will initiate a reaction from the US. Pyongyang is aware that Donald Trump has boasted about his ability to get Mr Kim to stop firing missiles and testing nuclear missiles.

“As long as there’s no testing,” said Mr Trump, “I’m in no rush.”

After the two leaders failed to secure a deal in Hanoi, and with economic sanctions still in place, North Korea might be trying to hurry the US president along and get him back to the table with a better deal.

It is worth noting Choe Sun-hui still praised the personal relationship between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. So the door to diplomacy is still open. Instead she blamed the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton for hardening the US position.

North Korea also has hardliners of its own, who may perceive Kim Jong-un’s 120-hour train trip to Hanoi and back as a failure. This announcement lets them know, along with the Trump administration, that Mr Kim is standing firm.

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