Pyongyang fumes over initiative

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Pyongyang fumes over initiative

North Korea lashed out at the United States and South Korea Friday for forming a working group on Pyongyang’s denuclearization, calling Washington “arrogant” and Seoul “disgraceful” in a report published by a state-run propaganda website aimed at foreign readers.

The Korean-language news article published on Uriminzokkiri accused the U.S. of trying to sabotage efforts between both Koreas to achieve peace and prosperity, adding that the United States doesn’t have any “justification” to interfere in South-North relations.

The Seoul-Washington working group both countries agreed to form was part of the United States’ “heinous” intention to end cross-border projects “anytime” they wish, according to Uriminzokkiri. The article continued that the working group was also proof the United States was trying to seize control over South Korea and that Washington’s purported support for improved relations between the two Koreas was actually “deception of public opinion.”

The North urged South Korea to distance itself from the United States and focus on carrying out joint declarations signed by the leaders of both countries this year, stressing that South-North relations “cannot improve a bit” if Seoul continues to be “fooled” by Washington.

The U.S. State Department announced on Oct. 30 that Seoul and Washington agreed to launch a working group to coordinate their approaches to North Korean denuclearization, sanctions implementation and inter-Korean cooperation. The U.S. State Department, at the time, said the forming of a new working group would mark an “additional step” toward achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of the North.

A senior South Korean Foreign Ministry official later said the group would start operating sometime this month and denied speculation it was created by Washington to pressure Seoul to slow down inter-Korean cooperation. The source said Seoul proposed creating the working group first and that both sides were in talks on the subject for several months.

Pyongyang’s latest outburst of frustration Friday came shortly after the cancellation of a high-level meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, in New York Thursday. The two envoys had planned to continue denuclearization talks and discuss a second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The State Department initially announced the meeting on Tuesday before saying it was canceled Wednesday with no explanation. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Thursday in New York that it was North Korea who canceled the meeting, apparently “because they weren’t ready.”

Speaking to reporters at the UN headquarters, Haley said she didn’t think there was a “major issue” behind the postponement, according to the Associated Press, and said that a meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un was still on for after Jan. 1.

“I do think the talks are going to be rescheduled,” Haley said of the Pompeo-Kim Yong-chol meeting. “It doesn’t change the fact that the summit is still scheduled for the president and Kim [Jong-un] to meet after the first of the year.”

Haley underscored that sanctions won’t be lifted on North Korea yet because “they haven’t done anything to warrant us getting rid of them.”

“The threat is still there,” she said. “North Korea still has nuclear facilities and they’ve still not allowed inspectors in to inspect them.”

The top envoy criticized Russia’s efforts in the UN to try to lift sanctions on the regime, saying Moscow was trying to “earn brownie points with North Korea” and raise sanctions relief “because they’re already cheating.”

Seoul’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon will travel to Washington next week to meet with officials from the U.S. government and Congress to discuss inter-Korean relations and the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula, the ministry said Friday.

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