North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump have so far met three times to discuss a persisting dispute over the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Presstv Reported.
Their first meeting was held in Singapore in June last year with little progress, mainly because the US refused to lift its harsh sanctions on North Korea. They met each other for their second summit in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, in February, which ended in failure as Trump abruptly walked away from the summit.
The collapse of the Vietnam summit prompted Pyongyang to warn that it was considering ending the talks and resuming its nuclear and missile tests.
Trump and Kim, however, briefly met again at the Korean border in late June, when the pair agreed to kick-start working-level talks.
On Wednesday, US special representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, who is in Seoul for talks with South Korean officials, said that they were “prepared to engage as soon as we hear from our counterparts in North Korea.”
On Thursday, however, a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry seemed to reject that offer, lambasting a recent mid-range cruise missile test by Washington and its plans to deploy US Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets in the region as “dangerous” moves that can “trigger a new cold war.”
“This compels us to weigh a realistic way of turning our attention more to strengthening the physical deterrence,” the spokesman said in a statement carried by the official North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“We remain unchanged in our position to resolve all issues in a peaceful manner through dialogue and negotiation,” the spokesman said. “[But,] dialogue accompanied by military threats is of no interest to us.”
Pyongyang is angered by joint military exercises by the US and its ally South Korea, saying that the annual 10-day drills violate agreements reached with Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in.
North Korea has long denounced the joint exercises as a rehearsal for invasion of its territories. Washington stations nearly 30,000 troops in the South to purportedly defend it from its northern neighbor.
North Korea, currently under multiple rounds of sanctions by the United Nations (UN) and the US over its nuclear and missile programs, put a unilateral halt to its missile and nuclear tests shortly before a diplomatic thaw began between Pyongyang and Seoul in early 2018. The thaw later led to two official summits between Trump and Kim in Singapore and Vietnam.
Since late July, Pyongyang has conducted a number of weapons tests, described by Seoul as short-range ballistic missiles. Trump has downplayed the launches, saying that other countries also test the same missiles.
The US has so far refused to lift any sanctions in return for several unilateral steps already taken by Pyongyang. North Korea has also demolished at least one nuclear test site and agreed to allow international inspectors into a missile engine test facility.
Separately on Thursday, South Korea’s deputy national security adviser Kim Hyun-chong said that Washington and Pyongyang were expected to restart denuclearization talks soon.
“My impression was that North Korea and the United States would carry out dialog soon, and it would go well,” Kim said at a press conference after the one-hour meeting with Biegun in capital, Seoul.