|In this Feb. 28 file photo, U.S President Donald Trump, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un take a walk after their first meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel, in Hanoi, Vietnam. AP-Yonhap|
Cheong Wa Dae says will continue efforts to resume dialogue
By Kim Yoo-chul
North Korea is considering dropping nuclear negotiations with the United States, the country's deputy foreign minister Choe Son-hui told a press conference in Pyongyang, Friday morning.
"The United States lost the golden chance. North Korea has no intention to yield to U.S. demands in any types for concessions," Choe said. Only a small number of foreign journalists and ambassadors were invited to the press conference.
"North Korea will soon decide whether or not to keep talking with the U.S. or maintaining the continued halts on missile launches and nuclear tests," the senior North Korean official said. She added the North's leader Kim Jong-un will soon announce the country's detailed action plans possibly to be taken by the regime after the summit.
Regarding Choe's comments, Cheong Wa Dae said the presidential office is "closely monitoring" the situation and will continue to make efforts toward resuming dialogue.
This is the first official response by North Korea after the Hanoi summit failed to produce any results with Washington refusing to accept North Korea's preferred "step-by-step" approach to the nuclear issue by demanding Pyongyang report undeclared nuclear facilities and dismantle its nuclear program, verifiably and completely.
Choe's remarks appear to be dissipating Seoul's hope to keep the momentum for nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea alive by moving forward with frozen inter-Korean economic and business projects.
President Moon Jae-in has acted as a "mediator" on the talks since the very beginning, making the first U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore possible and smoothing out bumps along the way toward the second summit in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.
Given the country's contribution for the talks, South Korea appears eager to help put Washington and Pyongyang back on the diplomacy track with Moon vowing to play a "facilitator" role rather than just act as a "mediator."
Despite repeated requests by South Korea for a partial easing of economic sanctions on North Korea and an early resumption of the operations of Gaeseong Industrial Complex and Mount Geumgang tourism projects, the U.S. was stressing the importance of ensuring that United Nations sanctions are maintained and implemented fully.
|North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, center, speaks at a gathering for diplomats in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, March 15, 2019. AP-Yonhap|
In a press release, early Friday, South Korea's foreign ministry said Seoul and Washington agreed "in principle" to apply "some measures" to further advance inter-Korean relations to bring the United States and North Korea back to the negotiating table. It was unknown what measures were discussed during the working-level meeting between representatives of the two countries.
But Stephen Biegun, a special representative for North Korea, called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members to stay united in pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Biegun briefed council members on the matter at the U.S. mission in New York, early Friday (KST), sources said.
Washington still believes easing sanctions on North Korea, if it actually happens, could jeopardize Kim's willingness to dismantle his nuclear weapons program. Pushing the North Korean leader by maintaining today's tough sanctions is important to the U.S. effort to eventually lead the North Korean leader to completely scrap his nuclear ambitions.
A U.N. report this week showed North Korea is successfully evading sanctions through elaborate methods to import oil, export coal and trade with cryptocurrencies.
"The best-case outcome could be for Trump and Kim to remain committed to diplomacy after overcoming the disappointment of the Hanoi summit, possibly with South Korean help. The two leaders could also give working-level officials the authority and opportunity to work out some of the many differences between the two countries before holding the next summit," said Naoko Aoki, a nuclear security fellow at RAND Corporation.
She added there have been ominous signs for North Korea-United States ties since the failure of the Hanoi summit as the two countries are currently at an important juncture that will undermine the future of their relations.