SEOUL—North Korea’s response to President
latest invitation: not interested.
Adding a further hurdle to reviving stalled denuclearization talks, Pyongyang on Monday rejected the idea of another nuclear summit that “gives us nothing,” a day after President Trump had urged North Korean leader
Kim Jong Un
by tweet to “act quickly, get the deal done”—and closed with, “See you soon!”
North Korea has escalated threats in recent weeks to cut off negotiations with the U.S., protesting scheduled U.S.-South Korea military exercises and attacking Washington’s “hostile” policy against the isolated regime. Mr. Kim and other senior officials had already set a year-end deadline for the U.S. to propose a disarmament deal that is suitable to Pyongyang.
A senior North Korean diplomat, in a Monday statement carried by state media, said he interpreted Mr. Trump’s tweet as suggesting the two countries meet for a third summit.
“We are not interested in summits that give us nothing,” the official said, in an unofficial translation. “We must receive our end of the bargain for what President Trump has touted as his achievements already.”
The White House declined to elaborate on Mr. Trump’s Twitter message, which comes after months have passed without progress in what the administration saw as one of its chief foreign policy initiatives only 16 months ago, when Messrs. Trump and Kim held their first summit.
That meeting, in Singapore in June 2018, was followed by a second summit in February and a third meeting between the two leaders in June 2019, along the boundary between North and South Korea.
But the two sides have never succeeded in launching sustained talks among technical experts and diplomats to move through the lengthy list of issues involved with the process of lifting global sanctions and removing nuclear weapons.
North Korea abruptly broke off one of the few efforts to hold technical talks with the U.S. last month in Stockholm. Last week, Secretary of Defense
and his South Korean counterpart said a major allied air exercise originally slated to begin this week would be postponed—a gesture Washington hoped would show its sincere interest in continued diplomacy.
North Korea has consistently described such allied military drills as rehearsals for invasion, and proof that the U.S. and South Korea haven’t dropped their hostility toward Pyongyang.
But despite the fiery rhetoric, Pyongyang has kept the door open to talks should Washington shift its negotiating stance. Over the past year, state media had refrained from criticizing Mr. Trump, instead lavishing him with praise. But Monday’s report, and another last week, took a subtle jab, warning that Pyongyang wouldn’t acquiesce to future meetings that the president could hail as a foreign-policy win at home.
“North Korea hates feeling like they’ve lost the initiative,” said
a senior researcher at the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses, a state-run think tank in Seoul. “Trump’s tweet makes them feel like the U.S. is being unilateral.”
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