SEOUL • Pyongyang's top diplomat has said that United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is a "diehard toxin" who only complicates the denuclearisation talks, and that North Korea is ready for both dialogue and stand-off.
Talks aimed at dismantling the North's nuclear and missile programmes have stalled since a failed second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi in February.
While Mr Trump and Mr Kim managed to meet again in June at the inter-Korea border and agreed to reopen working-level negotiation, this has yet to take place.
Since the Hanoi summit, North Korea has demanded that Mr Pompeo be replaced with a "more mature" person, while lauding the rapport built between Mr Kim and Mr Trump.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, who took part in the Hanoi summit along with Mr Pompeo, yesterday called the chief US negotiator the "diehard toxin of the US diplomacy".
He also accused Mr Pompeo of employing "hackneyed sanctions rhetoric, misleading the truth".
Mr Ri was referring to Mr Pompeo's remarks in recent press interviews, in which the US Secretary of State had said that sanctions would be kept until North Korea takes concrete actions on denuclearisation.
Mr Pompeo, in an interview with the Washington Examiner published on Wednesday, said: "We'll continue to keep on the sanctions that are the toughest in all of history."
In a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, Mr Ri said: "He who has no shame has no conscience.
"He is truly impudent enough to utter such thoughtless words which only leave us disappointed and sceptical as to whether we can solve any problem with such a guy."
Mr Ri also accused Mr Pompeo of casting "dark shadows" over the talks and being more interested in his own political ambitions than in US foreign policy.
"If the US still dreams a pipe dream of gaining everything through sanctions, we are left with two options, either to leave it enjoying the dream to its heart's content or to wake it up from the dream," he said.
"We are ready for both dialogue and stand-off," he added.
US envoy Stephen Biegun, who leads working-level talks with North Korea, was in Seoul this week to discuss ways to get negotiations back on track.
Talks were expected to be reopened soon, South Korea's deputy national security adviser Kim Hyun-chong said on Thursday, giving an upbeat assessment after meeting Mr Biegun.
"We look forward to the progress of denuclearisation talks in terms of mutual trust and respect between the US and North Korea, culminating in good results," deputy spokesman Kim Eun-han of South Korea's Unification Ministry said yesterday, when asked about Mr Ri's statement.
North Korea has fired a series of short-range missiles in recent weeks in protest against the US-South Korea joint military exercises and the adoption of new weapons, complicating efforts to reopen talks.