North Korea Rejects Talks 07/07 06:46
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea on Tuesday said it has no immediate
intent to resume a dialogue with the United States as U.S. Deputy Secretary of
State Stephen Biegun arrived in South Korea for discussions on stalled nuclear
In a statement released through the North's official Korean Central News
Agency, senior North Korean foreign ministry official Kwon Jong Gun also
ridiculed "nonsensical" calls by South Korea for revived negotiations between
the U.S. and North Korea, saying it has lost its relevance as a mediator.
The State Department said Biegun, who is also President Donald Trump's
special representative for North Korea, will discuss cooperation on a range of
issues in meetings this week with officials in South Korea and Japan, including
the "final, fully verified denuclearization" of North Korea.
Kwon's statement came hours before Biegun arrived at a U.S. air base near
Seoul. The U.S. Embassy said Biegun, members of his delegation and the military
air crew were being tested for COVID-19 at the base and would proceed to Seoul
after confirmation that all had negative test results.
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have met three times since
embarking on high-stakes nuclear diplomacy in 2018. But negotiations have
faltered since their second summit in February last year in Vietnam, where the
Americans rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange
for a partial surrender of its nuclear capability.
Amid the stalemate in talks, North Korea has repeatedly said in recent
months that it would no longer give Trump the gift of high-profile meetings he
could boast of as foreign policy achievements unless it gets something
substantial in return.
North Korea has also been dialing up pressure on the South, cutting off
virtually all cooperation and blowing up an inter-Korean liaison office in its
territory last month, following months of frustration over Seoul's
unwillingness to defy U.S.-led sanctions and restart joint economic projects
that would help the North's broken economy.
"Explicitly speaking once again, we have no intention to sit face-to-face
with U.S.," Kwon said in the statement.
Some analysts believe North Korea will avoid serious talks with the
Americans for now and instead focus on pressuring the South in a bid to
increase its bargaining power before an eventual return to negotiations after
the U.S. presidential election in November. They say North Korea likely doesn't
want to make any major commitments or concessions when there is a chance U.S.
leadership could change.
But Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the
prospects of a fourth Trump-Kim meeting shouldn't be ruled out.
"Normally a U.S. president wouldn't take such a gambit ahead of an election,
but down in the polls, Trump has incentive to go ever further off script," he
Kim may also see a closing window of opportunity if Trump is expected to
leave office and could possibly attempt to exchange reversible denuclearization
steps for sanctions relief and South Korean investment, Easley said.
Kwon's statement came days after North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister
Choe Sun Hui, whom Biegun has described as his potential counterpart when talks
resume, insisted the North won't resume negotiations unless Washington discards
what it describes as "hostile" policies. She criticized the Trump
administration for considering diplomacy with the North as "nothing more than a
tool for grappling its political crisis."
Without naming him outright, Kwon also took a jab at Moon, who in a video
conference with European leaders last week expressed hope that Trump and Kim
would meet again before the U.S. elections.
"(Choe's) statement also mentioned the meddlesome man who had again
indicated his intention to arbitrate between the DPRK and the U.S.," Kwon said,
referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People's Republic
"We feel sorry to see (the South) trying so hard to become the ?mediator'
but it may try as much as it wants if it cherishes so strong wish to try it to
the end. Time will show whether its efforts will succeed or it will only suffer
a loss and ridicule."
Biegun is to meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and
other South Korean officials on Wednesday before leaving for Japan on Thursday,
Kang's ministry said.