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Pompeo insists that North will continue talking

Mar 18,2019
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed that North Korea remains interested in talks with the United States, despite a recent remark by the North’s vice foreign minister that blamed the United States for the collapse of the Vietnam summit.

“I saw the remarks that she made,” Pompeo said in a press briefing in Washington Friday. “She left open the possibility that negotiations would continue for sure. It’s the administration’s desire that we continue to have conversations around this.”

Pompeo was responding to questions from the press about North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, who, in a conference in Pyongyang on Friday, blamed Pompeo and White House National Security Adviser John Bolton for creating an “atmosphere of hostility and mistrust” that “obstructed the constructive effort for negotiations between the supreme leaders of North Korea and the United States,” according to Russia’s TASS news agency.

According to AP, Choe called the U.S. stance “gangster-like.”

“I have a vague recollection of being called ‘gangster-like’ from a visit that I took one time previously, and following that we continued to have very professional conversations where we tried our best to work together and represent our respective sides,” Pompeo said in the press conference Friday. “I have every expectation that we’ll be able to continue to do that.”

The secretary of state emphasized that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will keep his pledge to not conduct missile or nuclear tests.

“In Hanoi, on multiple occasions, [Kim] spoke directly to the president and made a commitment that he would not resume nuclear testing, nor would he resume missile testing,” Pompeo said.

The summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, last month ended without an agreement due to differences on the scope of North Korea’s denuclearization and sanctions relief by the United States.

Pompeo added that U.S.-North negotiations are ongoing, though he did not provide details on the level of engagement. While North Korean state media has portrayed the Hanoi summit as a success, it recently heightened civilian drill exercises in some areas, leading North Koreans to conclude that the summit did not go well, according to a recent report by Radio Free Asia (RFA).

“This morning, a siren went off loudly throughout the region to announce an air raid drill, which has not been held for a while,” a source in the North’s Yangkang Province told RFA on Saturday. “Local authorities have also been telling us lately to prepare ourselves for the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises. So people have guessed that the summit in Vietnam must have gone wrong.”

The state media has remained silent on Choe’s remarks, instead focusing on usual rhetoric on its Juche ideology.

“The question about whether to be self-sustainable or reliant on foreign powers is a question about whether to live as a free man or a slave,” Kim Jong-un was quoted as saying by Rodong Sinmun, the daily newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, on Saturday.

Some experts and North Korea watchers advised the U.S. government to show the North the economic benefits that may follow denuclearization.

“The cost of achieving economic development has to go up as a result of Hanoi,” said Gen. Vincent Brooks, former commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, at an event at Stanford University on Friday, NK News reported.

Brooks said the fact that Kim participated in the Hanoi summit showed he may value “economic development more than nuclear weapons.”

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]