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North Korea ‘not considering even the possibility' of resuming stalled US talks

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Picture by Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP
Kim Tong-Hyung, Associated Press

North Korea’s foreign minister has said that his country is not even considering a resumption of stalled nuclear talks with the United States, dismissing hopes expressed by American and South Korean officials for a quick resumption of negotiations.

The statement by Ri Son Gwon came a day after the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a message saying that US expectations of talks would “plunge them into a greater disappointment”.

Hope for a restart of the nuclear talks flared briefly after Mr Kim instructed officials at a political conference last week to prepare for both dialogue and confrontation — although more for confrontation — with the Biden administration.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan called Mr Kim’s comments an “interesting signal”.

Mr Ri praised the statement issued by Mr Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, which he said brushed off the “hasty judgment, conjecture and expectation of the US”.

“We are not considering even the possibility of any contact with the US, let alone having it, which would get us nowhere, only taking up precious time,” Mr Ri said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Seoul have been stalled since the collapse of a meeting between Kim Jong Un and former president Donald Trump in 2019 because of a disagreement over an easing of US-led economic sanctions in exchange for partial denuclearisation by North Korea.

While US and South Korean officials expressed optimism over Mr Kim’s comment that he expected both dialogue and confrontation, some experts say North Korea has been communicating the same message for months — that it has no intention to return to talks unless the United States offers meaningful concessions.

Sung Kim, President Joe Biden’s special representative for North Korea, said Washington was prepared to meet the North “anywhere, anytime without preconditions” as he visited Seoul for discussions with South Korean and Japanese officials over the nuclear standoff.

But he stressed that the Biden administration would continue to pressure North Korea with sanctions over its nuclear and missile ambitions.

The trilateral talks followed a four-day North Korean ruling party meeting last week at which Mr Kim called for stronger efforts to improve the nation’s economy, battered by pandemic border closures and facing worsening food shortages.

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