North Korea’s demand for removal of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from future nuclear talks may escalate into a war of nerves between Pyongyang and Washington before the two sides enter a fresh round of denuclearization negotiations, experts here said Friday.
The US State Department did not directly respond to North Korean Foreign Ministry’s call for replacing Pompeo, Washington’s top negotiator, with someone who is more “careful and mature.”
In this Feb. 27, 2019, file photo, US President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi. (AP-Yonhap)
“The US remains ready to engage with North Korea in constructive negotiations,” a US State Department spokesperson said Thursday, saying they were aware of the North’s demands.
In an interview with the state-run Korean Central News Agency, North Korean Foreign Ministry official Kwon Jong-gun blamed Pompeo for ruining the talks, referring to a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held in Vietnam in February.
“We cannot but be aware of Pompeo’s ulterior motives 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 does not grasp the meaning,” Kwon said.
This is not the first time that Pyongyang has expressed its distrust of key US officials. North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, on March 15, blamed Pompeo and US National Security Advisor John Bolton for the breakdown of the Hanoi talks in February by creating “an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust.”
The communist nation has been ratcheting up pressure on Washington in recent weeks by setting a year-end deadline for the third Trump-Kim summit, scheduling a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and test-firing what it called a new type of tactical guided weapon.
Choi Yong-hwan, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy, said the moves are aimed at gaining the upper hand in the negotiatings.
“Before fresh talks start, the North seemingly wants to give a twist to the agenda and methods they addressed in the previous nuclear talks,” he said.
Other analysts said the demand for Pompeo’s withdrawal may have resulted from Kim’s preference for exclusive direct talks with Trump.
By Park Han-na (firstname.lastname@example.org)