A North Korean official on Saturday said that the U.S. and South Korea are dreaming if they think that President Donald Trump’s sending a birthday message would get leader Kim Jong Un back to the negotiating table.
North Korean Foreign Ministry adviser Kim Kye Gwan repeated the North’s deep frustrations over stalled nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration and stressed that the country will never fully deal away its nuclear capabilities for ending U.S.-led sanctions despite its economic difficulties.
He was responding to comments by South Korean presidential national security director Chung Eui-yong who, after returning from a visit to the United States on Friday, said that Seoul had conveyed Trump’s birthday greetings to Kim. His birthday is believed to be Jan. 8.
Chung told reporters that Trump during their meeting at the White House this week had asked Seoul to deliver the message to Pyongyang, which it did through “proper means” on Thursday.
But Kim Kye Gwan said that the North had also received a similar letter by Trump directly from the Americans, and ridiculed Seoul saying it was clinging to its role as a mediator between Washington and Pyongyang.
Kim last week opened the new year expressing deep frustrations over the stalled negotiations and vowed to bolster his nuclear arsenal as a deterrent against “gangster-like” U.S. sanctions and pressure.
The North in past months has severed virtually all cooperation with the South, while demanding Seoul to break away from Washington and restart inter-Korean economic projects held back by U.S.-led sanctions.
Seoul had lobbied hard for the resumption of nuclear negotiations, with Chung shuttling between Pyongyang and Washington to help set up the first summit between Kim and Trump in June 2018.
But negotiations have faltered since the collapse of the second Kim-Trump meeting in February last year in Hanoi, Vietnam. The U.S. side rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for the dismantlement of an aging nuclear facility in Yongbyon, which would only represent a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.
Trump and Kim met again in June and agreed to resume negotiations. But an October working-level meeting in Sweden broke down over what the North Koreans described as the Americans’ “old stance and attitude.”
In his statement, Kim Kye Gwan said that the North will never again engage in negotiations to fully give away a crucial nuclear facility in exchange for sanctions relief as it did in Vietnam.