North Korean official says Kim rethinking US talks, launch moratorium

Frederick Owens
March 16, 2019

South Korea's presidential Blue House said in a statement: "We can not judge the current situation based exclusively on Vice Minister Choe Son Hui's statements".

She added leader Kim Jong-un will soon decide whether to stay on the dialogue track and refrain from carrying out missile launches and nuclear tests.

Between Feb. 16 and March 2, the Washington-based 38 North, a North Korea project of the Henry L. Stimson Center, detected structures on the launch pad at the Tongchang-ri launch site, also known as Sohae, had been rebuilt, although now it appeared activity had ceased.

Amid the summit in Vietnam, U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and U.S. National Security Adviser, John Bolton created an "atmosphere of hostility and mistrust," Choe was quoted as saying.

At the summit, US President Donald Trump and Kim ended their meeting sooner than scheduled without reaching any agreement.

Read the full Times report here.

North Korea expert Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey, said NorthKorea may be delivering an ultimatum.

Speaking of the issues regarding the DPRK, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday urged all parties to remain patient and to seize the opportunity to promote dialogue between the USA and the DPRK.

At the summit on February 27 and 28, North Korea asked for relief from five major United Nations sanctions and offered to dismantle a major nuclear weapons research site at Yongbyon, but the Trump administration insisted that North Korea surrender its entire nuclear program in exchange for economic benefits.

But Mr Pompeo said he is "hopeful" that discussions will continue.

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Bolton said Friday he has spoken with his South Korean counterpart about the North Korea allegations. Pompeo said that in her remarks, Choe had left open the possibility that negotiations would continue.

"Kim Jong Un could announce his position on nuclear negotiations with the USA and possibly even how he intends to follow up on his comment in his New Year's speech about "seeking a new path" if the United States continues to exert pressure", said Minyoung Lee, an analyst at NK Pro. She said statements by senior Trump advisers since the summit have further worsened the climate. "I'd like to speak further within the USA government before we respond".

"That's Chairman Kim's word", Mr Pompeo said.

"We are not going to do denuclearization incrementally", Biegun said. "We have every expectation he will live up to that commitment".

"I don't think that really falls in the line of the way that the North Koreans approach things".

Any launch would send the stuttering talks on denuclearisation into disarray, after the Hanoi summit broke up without agreement. "In any situation, our government will endeavour for the restart of North Korea-U.S. negotiations", South Korea's presidential Blue House said in a statement.

South Korea, which has an ambitious agenda of engagement with North Korea that is dependent on Pyongyang and Washington resolving at least some of their differences, said it was too early to tell what Choe's comments might mean.

"On our way back to the homeland, our chairman of the state affairs commission said: 'For what reason do we have to make this train trip again?'" she said, in comments carried by the AP.

North Korea claimed it had only requested a partial lifting of the sanctions.

The spokeswoman said the ministry had not confirmed why the North Korean officials decided not to attend.

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