North slams U.S. ‘disarmament-first’ stance

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North slams U.S. ‘disarmament-first’ stance

Pyongyang’s state-controlled media denounced Washington’s “nuclear disarmament-first” policy in a statement issued through its former nuclear envoy on Friday, saying it believes U.S. President Donald Trump will be different from his predecessors in making a “wise” and “bold” decision for North-U.S. relations.

Kim Kye-gwan, Pyongyang’s former representative to the six-party nuclear talks who now serves as an adviser to the North’s Foreign Ministry, said via the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that the United States was “obsessed” with pressuring the North to give up its nuclear weapons before offering any sanctions relief, adding this made him “doubt” whether a breakthrough in bilateral relations can come to fruition.

“It is hard reality that politicians in Washington are obsessed with [the] ‘nuclear disarmament-first’ assertion - the DPRK can get access to a bright future only when it abandons its nukes first - and with [the] twisted view regarding that sanctions led the DPRK to dialogue,” an English version of the KCNA report read, referring to the North by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“This makes me doubt whether a new breakthrough could be brought about in the DPRK-U.S. relations though another DPRK-U.S. summit talks may open.”

Kim, however, left open the possibility that Trump could change that.

“But I came to know that President Trump is different from his predecessors in [the] political sense and decision [making] while watching his approach to the DPRK,” said Kim, “so I would like to place my hope on President Trump’s wise option and bold decision.”

The KCNA report was apparently the regime’s response to Trump’s speech made at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday. Trump told world leaders that the North was “full of tremendous untapped potential,” but in order to realize that, it “must denuclearize” first.

A South Korean diplomatic source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Pyongyang must have felt “disappointed” in Trump’s speech, because less than a week earlier he suggested a “new method” might be needed to denuclearize the North, while blaming his former national security adviser, John Bolton, for the impasse in denuclearization talks.

Trump’s UN speech was also expected to set the tone for the next working-level talks between Washington and Pyongyang, which the North proposed should be held in late September.

But U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in a press conference on Thursday in New York that a working-level meeting would not be held in the remainder of this month.

“We have not been able to make those happen, and we don’t have a date yet when we’ll be able to get together,” Pompeo said.

“We believe there are opportunities to engage in conversations that are important and can advance the objectives that were set out in Singapore now a year and a half ago,” he said. “And I - we hope the phone rings and that we get that call and we get that chance to find a place and a time that work for the North Koreans.”

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