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North Korea Accuses ‘Gangster-Like’ John Bolton of Sabotaging Denuclearization Talks

15 March 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that North Korea is keeping open the possibility of continued talks after Pyongyang's deputy foreign minister said they might walk from negotiations, criticizing the top U.S. diplomat and national security adviser John Bolton for creating "an atmosphere of hostility".

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un take a walk after their first meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel, February 28, 2019, in Hanoi. Why call for another summit to offer the same basic deal Trump has offered all along?

South Korea's presidential Blue House said in a statement: "We can not judge the current situation based exclusively on Vice Minister Choe Son Hui's statements".

The tone of the North Korean Foreign Ministry, highlighting the lack of progress in the implementation of the denuclearization issue, is in stark contrast to the far more optimistic rhetoric from the United States special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun.

John Delury, an expert on East Asia at Seoul's Yonsei University, said Choe's comments could be seen as a response to Bolton's threat to ramp up sanctions and did not mean the door to dialogue was closed.

North Korean tyrant Kim Jong-un is understood to be preparing an announcement where he will outline his future position on the denuclearisation of the peninsula.

Moon Chung-in, South Korea's special presidential adviser for foreign affairs and national security, said if Pyongyang tries to use the reported missile activities as leverage in stalled nuclear talks, it would constitute a "bad move" that could be catastrophic.

Mr Pompeo said Kim Jong-un had promised US President Donald Trump in Vietnam that testing would not resume. She added that while South Korean President Moon Jae-in has tried to help bring the US and North Korea together to talk, the South is "a player, not an arbiter" because it is an ally of Washington. "That's Chairman Kim's word, I have every expectation he'll live up to that".

Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University, says Kim Jong Un's message may be an indication the North Korean leader was indirectly expressing a willingness to continue talking to U.S. President Trump if Washington took action to bridge the gap between the two sides. 'I'm not sure why the USA came out with this different description.

"I saw the remarks [Ms Choe] made - she left open the possibility negotiations would continue".

Trump, who has said the USA has ended the nuclear threat from North Korea, said Kim had offered to take some steps to dismantle his nuclear arsenal, but hadn't gone far enough. But later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton interfered, demanding full denuclearization before any sanctions would be lifted, which the North Koreans found "an absurd sophism". But those meetings broke down after the US demanded a full declaration of North Korea's nuclear inventory up front - a "gangster-like demand", according to the regime.

Bolton said Friday he has spoken with his South Korean counterpart about the North Korea allegations.

Between Feb. 16 and March 2, the Washington-based 38 North, a North Korea project of the Henry L. Stimson Center, detected structures on the launch pad at the Tongchang-ri launch site, also known as Sohae, had been rebuilt, although now it appeared activity had ceased.

"It's the administration's desire that we continue to have conversations around this", Pompeo said.

"As long as there's no testing", said Mr Trump, "I'm in no rush".

North Korea Accuses ‘Gangster-Like’ John Bolton of Sabotaging Denuclearization Talks