SEOUL: North Korea said on Tuesday the United States was trying to drag out denuclearization talks ahead of the U.S. presidential election next year and issued a veiled threat to Washington to soften its demands, state media reported.
Ri Thae Song, North Korea’s vice foreign minister in charge of U.S. affairs, accused Washington of being “keen on earning time” instead of making concessions.
“The dialogue touted by the U.S. is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the U.S.,” Ri said in a statement on state news agency KCNA, referring to the initials of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name.
“What is left to be done now is the U.S. option and it is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get.” Ri singled out a U.S. State Department statement calling for “sustained and substantial dialogue” after North Korea’s test of its new multiple rocket launchers on Thursday. Negotiations between North Korea and the United States have hit a stalemate after a day-long working-level meeting in October in Stockholm broke down. Kim has set an end-year deadline for Washington to show flexibility in its position, but U.S. officials have described the deadline as artificial.
On the other hand, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he still had confidence in North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but noted that Kim “likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he?”
“That’s why I call him Rocket Man,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with the head of NATO in London He said he hoped Kim would denuclearize, but added: “we’ll find out.”
North Korea fired two short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast last week in the latest test of its large multiple-rocket launcher. It was seen as an effort to remind the United States of a year-end deadline Kim has set for Washington to show flexibility in stalled denuclearization talks. North Korea earlier on Tuesday accused the United States of trying to drag out denuclearization talks ahead of the U.S. presidential election next year. Trump said he was also pressing ahead with negotiations with allies South Korea and Japan to shoulder more of the cost of stationing U.S. troops in those countries.
He said South Korea last year agreed to pay nearly $500 million a year more for U.S. “protection,” and added the United States now wanted additional commitments. Asked if it was in the U.S. national security interest to have U.S. forces stationed on the Korean peninsula, Trump said: “It can be debated. I can go either way. I can make arguments both ways.”
“But I do think this, I think if we’re going to do it, they should burden-share more fairly,” Trump said.