News ID: 251658
Published: 0331 GMT April 19, 2019
Pyongyang demands removal of Pompeo from talks

Kremlin: North Korea’s Kim to meet Putin in Moscow this month

Kremlin: North Korea’s Kim to meet Putin in Moscow this month

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will travel to Russia in the second half of this month and meet President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said on Thursday.

The announcement coincided with a moment of discord in efforts by US President Donald Trump's administration to reach a deal with Kim to end nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Reuters reported.

In June, Trump and Kim opened up a face-to-face dialogue after months of trading military threats and pointed barbs. The two leaders signed a vaguely worded document on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but progress has since stalled because of the mismatched demands between Washington and Pyongyang over sanctions relief and disarmament.

North Korea has taken few concrete steps to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The Russian newspaper, Izvestia, cited a diplomatic source on Wednesday as saying the Putin-Kim meeting would likely take place next week in Russia's Far Eastern city of Vladivostok before Putin flies on to an April 26-27 summit in China.

North Korea also said on Thursday it no longer wanted to deal with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and called for him to be replaced in talks by somebody more mature. That demand came hours after Pyongyang announced its first weapons test since the last summit between Trump and Kim in Vietnam in February broke down with no agreement.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kwon Jong-gun, in charge of US affairs at the Foreign Ministry, had warned that no one could predict what would happen if Washington did not abandon the “root cause” that compelled Pyongyang to develop nuclear weapons.

The statement came shortly after Kim oversaw the test of a new tactical guided weapon, North Korea’s first weapon test since a summit between him and Trump broke down in late February.

US officials appeared to play down both developments, with acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan telling reporters at the Pentagon that while there had been a test, it was “not a ballistic missile.”

In the Thursday statement released by North Korea’s KCNA, Kwon said Pompeo had been "letting loose reckless remarks and sophism of all kinds against us every day," CNN reported.

Kwon said the North Korean leader had made his "principled stand" on negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington clear in a recent speech to the parliament.

"Everyone has a clear interpretation of his speech which says that the US should change its way of calculation and come up with responsive measures before the end of this year," Kwon said.

Kwon complained that Pompeo had characterized Kim's speech as being about finishing "working level negotiation between North Korea and the US by the end of the year," an interpretation he said was "talking nonsense."

"We cannot be aware of Pompeo's ulterior motive behind his self-indulgence in reckless remarks; whether he is indeed unable to understand words properly or just pretending on purpose. However, it is a very dangerous situation if he really did not grasp the meaning," Kwon said.

"The meaning is that the US should get rid of the root cause that pushed us into a nuclear state and obstacles on the way to denuclearization by its own hands; otherwise no one can predict how the situation on the Korean Peninsula will turn out."

He also appeared to blame Pompeo for the collapse of the Hanoi talks, saying that summit "gives us a lesson that whenever Pompeo pokes his nose in, the talks go wrong without any results."

Kwon's statement concluded, "Therefore, even in the case of possible resumption of the dialogue with the US, I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo but other person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us."

A US State Department spokesperson said Thursday they were "aware of the report" of Kwon's remarks.

"The United States remains ready to engage North Korea in a constructive negotiation," the spokesperson said.

Pyongyang has been growing frustrated with both Pompeo and Trump's national security advisor John Bolton, particularly over recent testimony Pompeo gave to Congress on the lack of progress toward denuclearization, said CNN International correspondent Will Ripley, who has visited North Korea and interviewed top officials numerous times.

Trump and Kim met again in Vietnam in February, but the summit collapsed over what the Americans saw as North Korean demands for sanctions relief in exchange for disarmament steps.

Kim blamed the collapse of his summit with Trump in February on what he described as unilateral demands by the United States, which he said raised questions over whether Washington has genuine willingness to improve relations.



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