SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – A senior North Korean diplomat on Saturday berated U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over his comments describing North Korean behavior as “rogue” and warned that Pyongyang’s hopes for talks with Washington are fading.
In a statement carried by state media, North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said Pompeo’s “thoughtless” comments increased North Korean people’s animosity toward Americans and made it harder for working-level nuclear dialogue between the countries to resume.
North Korea is extremely sensitive to outside criticism about its authoritarian leadership. It has also repeatedly expressed displeasure about a months-long stalemate in negotiations and ramped up testing of short-range ballistic missiles and rocket artillery in recent weeks in an apparent effort to build bargaining leverage.
“Our expectations of dialogue with the U.S. are gradually disappearing and we are being pushed to re-examine all the measures we have taken so far,” Choe said in the statement, carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA.
“We are very curious about the background of the American top diplomat’s thoughtless remarks and we will watch what calculations he has,” she said. “The U.S. had better not put any longer our patience to the test with such remarks irritating us if it doesn’t want to have bitter regrets afterward.”
In a speech to U.S. veterans in Indiana on Tuesday, Pompeo said the Trump administration recognized that “North Korea’s rogue behavior could not be ignored” while touting its approach in foreign policy.
“Americanism – it means telling the truth about the challenges we face,” he said. “Look, this administration didn’t pretend that the Islamic Republic of Iran was a responsible actor in the Middle East. We called out China’s bad behavior on trade and on national security. We recognized – we recognized that North Korea’s rogue behavior could not be ignored.”
Nuclear negotiations have been at a standstill since a February summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam collapsed after the U.S. side rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.
Since the breakdown in Hanoi, North Korea has repeatedly demanded that Washington remove Pompeo from the nuclear negotiations, accusing him of maintaining a hard-line stance on sanctions and distorting Pyongyang’s statements, while avoiding direct criticism of Trump.
Trump and Kim met again at the inter-Korean border in June and agreed to resume working-level talks, but there has been no known meeting between the countries since then.
Last week, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho called Pompeo a “die-hard toxin of U.S. diplomacy” after he said Washington would maintain strong sanctions on North Korea until the country is denuclearized.
KCNA also on Saturday said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit North Korea soon at the invitation of Ri, but did not specify what would be discussed.
Since initiating diplomacy with Seoul and Washington last year, Kim met Chinese President Xi Jinping five times before and after his summits with Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, cementing longtime ally Beijing as a major player in the process to resolve the nuclear standoff.