Tokyo: The peace process between the US and North Korea was in crisis today after Pyongyang angrily rejected Washington’s “gangster-like” demand for rapid nuclear disarmament, after two days of intense talks.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Tokyo to brief his Japanese and South Korean counterparts on the talks, which he called positive, and declined to comment on Pyongyang’s statement rejecting his efforts and appealing to US President Donald Trump to revive the peace process.
He later met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who stressed that a resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue was critical to global as well as regional stability.
US officials suggested the harshly-worded North Korean statement was a negotiating tactic. But after two days of theatrical amity in Pyongyang it illustrated the gulf that remains between the two sides.
The North’s foreign ministry took exception to Pompeo’s effort to secure concrete commitments to back leader Kim Jong Un’s promise, made at a summit last month with US President Donald Trump, to work towards the “denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.
In a statement relayed by the KCNA state news agency, a ministry spokesman said Pompeo had pushed “unilateral and gangster-like” demands on the nuclear issue, while offering no constructive steps from the US side. “It seems the US misunderstood our goodwill and patience,” he added.
Pyongyang noted that it had already destroyed a nuclear test site a concession that Trump has publicly hailed as a victory for peace and lamented that Pompeo had proved unwilling to match this with US concessions.
It dismissed Trump’s unilateral order to suspend joint US and South Korean war games as a cosmetic and “highly reversible” measure and criticised US negotiators who “never mentioned” the subject of bringing the 1953 Korean War to a formal end with a peace treaty.
The key sticking point remains the two sides’ very different understandings of the commitment Kim made to nuclear disarmament at his summit with Trump.
North Korea has long trumpeted a denuclearisation goal, but one that it sees as a lengthy process of undefined multilateral disarmament on the entire Korean peninsula, rather than a unilateral dismantlement of its nuclear arsenal.
The US insists the summit accord commits the North to take immediate steps towards complete and verifiable disarmament — and Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang was aimed at securing progress on that front.