North’s nuclear negotiator warns Washington

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North’s nuclear negotiator warns Washington

North Korea’s new negotiator in talks with the United States on Tuesday issued an ultimatum saying an “undesired consequence” lies in store unless Washington comes up with a “new calculus” for the discussions by the end of this year.

In an interview with the Korean Central News Agency, a Pyongyang state mouthpiece, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said there was “no change in [the North’s] determination to denuclearize” and that denuclearization will take place “when the time is right” but only on the condition that the United States “changes its current calculus and reorganizes its stance.”

If these changes aren’t made by the “time limit [Pyongyang] has presented,” the United States will be faced with “an undesired consequence,” Choe warned. While she did not elaborate on what the consequence may be, she seemed to suggest the North may abandon its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and missile tests.

Choe also commented on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s interview with CBS on April 24, saying that his remarks on the need to “change paths” if dialogue with the North broke down suggested “a dangerous thought that [the United States] would try to topple [North Korea’s] system through military means.”

This was the second time in 10 days that Choe grumbled about Washington’s insistence on seeing significant steps towards denuclearization before granting relief from international sanctions placed on North Korea’s economy. Choe earlier called John Bolton, the White House national security adviser, “dim-sighted.” Days earlier, a Foreign Ministry press release demanded Pompeo be replaced with a more “mature” figure - a call the U.S. secretary of state brushed aside in the CBS interview.

After former United Front Department director Kim Yong-chol was sidelined from the negotiations after the collapse of the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, last February, Choe emerged as the leading figure in the process after she was appointed a member of the State Affairs Commission - the country’s supreme decision-making body - last month. She was also the first to mention that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had no intention to give in to Washington’s “gangster-like demands” just two weeks after the Hanoi summit.

Pyongyang’s alternative to dealings with Washington may come in the form of building closer ties to its traditional partners in the region, China and Russia. According to Choe on Tuesday, Kim told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a summit in Vladivostok, Russia, last week that the North was “prepared to deal with every possible scenario” in the face of a “unilateral and dishonest attitude” from Washington.

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