Little reason to maintain Trump-Kim ties: N. Korea

SEOUL • North Korea sees little use in maintaining a personal relationship between leader Kim Jong Un and United States President Donald Trump if Washington sticks to hostile policies, state media reported yesterday - the second-year anniversary of the leaders' first summit.

US policies prove Washington remains a long-term threat to the North Korean state and its people, and North Korea will develop more reliable military forces to counter that threat, Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA.

Mr Trump and Mr Kim exchanged insults and threats in 2017 as North Korea made large advances in its nuclear and missile programme. The US responded by leading an international effort to tighten sanctions.

Ties improved significantly around the Singapore summit in June 2018, the first time a sitting US president had met a North Korean leader, but the statement that came out of the meeting was light on specifics.

A second summit in February last year in Vietnam failed to lead to a deal because of conflicts over US calls for North Korea to completely give up its nuclear weapons, and North Korean demands for swift sanctions relief.

Mr Ri said that in retrospect, the Trump administration appears to have been focusing only on scoring political points while seeking to isolate and suffocate North Korea, and threatening it with pre-emptive nuclear strikes and regime change.

"Never again will we provide the US Chief Executive with another package to be used for achievements without receiving any returns," he said. "Nothing is more hypocritical than an empty promise."

On Thursday, a US State Department spokesman told South Korea's Yonhap news agency that the US remains committed to dialogue with North Korea, and is open to a "flexible approach to reach a balanced agreement".

The same day, North Korea criticised the US for commenting on inter-Korea affairs, and said that Washington should stay quiet if it wants the upcoming US presidential election to go smoothly.

North Korea is likely to try to increase pressure on the US ahead of the election, said Mr Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for East Asia until early in the Trump administration.

"Trump's claim to have 'solved' the North Korea problem gives them leverage," he said.

Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea expert at King's College London, said Mr Ri's statement shows North Korea still sees all options on the table, from a proper diplomatic process to further developing its nuclear programme.

"North Korea continues to need a proper deal more than the US," he said on Twitter. "That hasn't changed."

Mr Ri said North Korea's desire to open a new cooperative era runs as deep as ever, but the situation on the Korean peninsula is daily taking a turn for the worse.

"The US professes to be an advocate for improved relations... but in fact, it is hell-bent on only exacerbating the situation," he said.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2020, with the headline Little reason to maintain Trump-Kim ties: N. Korea. Subscribe