1001 GMT February 17, 2020
The comments Monday by North Korea’s Foreign Ministry came days ahead of what US officials hope is the start of long-delayed working level nuclear talks with Pyongyang, voanews.com reported.
North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui a week ago said the North was willing to hold “comprehensive discussions” with US officials by the end of the month.
In a statement carried Monday by the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry appeared to move back the date of the possible talks, mentioning they are “expected to be held in a few weeks.”
“The discussion of denuclearization may be possible when threats and hurdles endangering our system security and obstructing our development are clearly removed beyond all doubt,” the statement said.
The comments, attributed to the director general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s Department of US Affairs, called the upcoming talks “decisive.”
“Whether the DPRK-US negotiations will be a window for chance or an occasion to precipitate crisis is entirely up to the US,” the statement said, using an abbreviation for North Korea’s official name.
North Korea has called for the US to come to the table with a “new way of calculation,” giving an end-of-year deadline after which it may increase provocations.
Talks between the US and North Korea broke down after a February summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump ended without a deal. Kim demanded a relaxation of sanctions in exchange for partial steps to dismantle his nuclear program. Trump wanted a more far-reaching deal.
Some North Korean officials have since hinted Pyongyang is also interested in receiving unspecified security guarantees from the United States – a comment in line with North Korea’s latest statement.
Trump and Kim have met three times – most recently in late June at the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas, where they agreed to start working-level talks that have never come to fruition.
At their first meeting in Singapore in June 2018, Trump and Kim signed a short statement agreeing to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” But the two sides never agreed on what denuclearization means or how to begin working toward it.
Trump has recently hinted he is open to a fourth meeting with Kim, though it isn't clear when and where such a meeting would take place.
South Korea’s JoongAng Daily reported Monday that Kim recently invited Trump to a summit in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. The story, which cited anonymous sources, said the invitation came in a letter from Kim.
South Korea’s presidential office and Foreign Ministry both said Monday they could not confirm the existence of such a letter, but stressed Seoul’s continued support for the resumption of talks as soon as possible.