North Korea’s Foreign Ministry no longer wants to talk to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asking for him to be replaced in nuclear talks with someone who “is more careful and mature in communicating,” state media reported Thursday.
The comments came hours after North Korea announced it had tested a tactical guided weapon, its first public weapons test since the breakdown of a summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.
The two announcements are not necessarily directly connected: Pompeo’s main offense appears to be that he referred to Kim as a “tyrant” during a Senate hearing. Nevertheless the North Korean regime is clearly frustrated with denuclearization talks, analysts say, and by what it sees as unreasonable American demands and enduring hostility.
The Foreign Ministry said “no one can predict” the situation on the Korean peninsula if the United States does not abandon the “root cause” that compelled Pyongyang to develop its nuclear program, according to a statement quoting senior official Kwon Jong Gun, reported by the Korean Central News Agency and picked up by Reuters.
Kwon, director general of the ministry’s American affairs department, claimed that whenever Pompeo “pokes his nose in, talks between the two countries go wrong without any results even from the point close to success.”
“I am afraid that, if Pompeo engages in the talks again, the table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled,” he told KCNA. “Therefore, even in the case of possible resumption of the dialogue with the U.S., I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo but a person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.”
Earlier Thursday, North Korea announced it had test-fired a new tactical guided weapon, in its first public weapons test since the summit.
It was not immediately clear what type of weapon the North Koreans fired, but experts said the description of a tactical weapon, with guided flight, capable of carrying a powerful warhead and fired at a variety of targets, suggested a short-range missile rather a longer-range ballistic missile, meaning the move would not violate North Korea’s self-declared moratorium on testing.
Nevertheless, experts said the action was a calibrated sign of defiance by Kim following a stalemate in the denuclearization talks and a reminder that his country was continuing to develop its conventional weapons program. But they said it does not close the door on diplomacy or negotiations about North Korea’s nuclear program.
KCNA said Kim oversaw the testing of the weapon Wednesday, explaining that it was tested “in various modes of firing at different targets,” had a “peculiar mode of guiding flight,” and could carry a powerful warhead.