N. Korea won't talk with US in 'hostile' situation

SEOUL • North Korea yesterday said it would not talk under "military threats", raising new doubts about US President Donald Trump's effort to restart stalled nuclear negotiations.

The country's foreign ministry also denounced joint US-South Korean military drills and the introduction of "cutting-edge lethal equipment" such as F-35A fighter jets as a "grave provocation".

"Escalating hostile military moves by the United States and the South Korean authorities are reducing the dynamics of dialogue for building a lasting and durable peace on the Korean Peninsula," the ministry said, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

The statement came during a visit to Seoul by the US' top nuclear envoy Stephen Biegun, suggesting it was unlikely that he might meet North Korea officials.

However, South Korea's deputy national security adviser Kim Hyun-chong said yesterday that he expects the US-North Korea dialogue to unfold soon and go well, in comments made after his meeting with Mr Biegun in Seoul.

"My impression was that North Korea and the United States would carry out dialogue soon and it would go well," South Korea's Mr Kim told reporters after the one-hour meeting.

The two sides have not met since Mr Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promised to restart working-level talks in "two to three weeks" during their unprecedented June 30 meeting at the Demilitarised Zone.

North Korea resumed ballistic missile launches in recent months and has given the Trump administration until the end of the year to make a better offer on sanctions relief. Mr Trump has said he does not think tests of short-range missiles should jeopardise the talks the leaders began in Singapore last year, but North Korea has hinted at the possibility of more significant provocations.

 
 
 

South Korea's Mr Kim said Mr Biegun expressed gratitude over Seoul's restrained response to the criticism from Pyongyang.

Mr Biegun, who steers the working-level talks, on Wednesday said he was prepared "to engage" as soon as his North Korean counterparts were ready.

Mr Trump earlier this month said the North Korean leader sent him a letter offering "a small apology" for the missile tests and expressed willingness to resume talks after joint US-South Korea military exercises were over.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Tuesday urged Mr Kim to return to talks.

Yonhap News Agency reported earlier this week that South Korea would soon accept delivery of four more advanced F-35A fighters.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2019, with the headline 'N. Korea won't talk with US in 'hostile' situation'. Print Edition | Subscribe