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North Korea Says U.S. Sought More Talks, but Calls It a ‘Trick’

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said on Thursday that the United States had proposed resuming talks on denuclearization in December, but warned that Pyongyang was not interested unless Washington was ready to meet its terms. And a top envoy said he believed the proposal was merely “a trick to earn time.”

The North Korean envoy to the talks, Kim Myong-gil, said on Thursday that his counterpart in Washington, Stephen E. Biegun, had sent a proposal to the North through a third party. Mr. Biegun and Mr. Kim led their countries’ delegations to working-level talks in Sweden last month, which ended without an agreement.

In a statement that was carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, Mr. Kim expressed strong doubt about Mr. Biegun’s sincerity, asking why the American envoy had sent his proposal through an intermediary rather than contacting him directly.

“If the negotiated solution of issues is possible, we are ready to meet with the U.S. at any place and any time​,” Mr. Kim said. But he added that North Korea had “no willingness to have such negotiations” if the United States merely planned to stall, as ​he said Mr. Biegun’s team had done in Stockholm​.

​After ​those talks collapsed, North Korea said it had no desire to engage in “sickening negotiations” with the United States anymore, swearing that it would never meet with American negotiators again until Washington had taken “a substantial step” toward a “complete and irreversible withdrawal” of its “hostile policy.”

On Thursday, Mr. Kim said he intuitively believed that Washington was not ready to give a satisfactory answer to the North’s demand.

“Explicitly speaking once again, I am not interested in such a meeting,” he said.

The North Korean statement did not specify what the American proposal was suspected to be a distraction from. But earlier, the North had accused the United States of using negotiations for “domestic political” purposes, a reference to the Ukraine scandal that is fueling impeachment hearings in Washington.

Mr. Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, held their first summit meeting in June last year in Singapore, ​signing a broadly worded agreement for North Korea to ​“​work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula​”​ ​in return for “new” relations ​and​ security guarantees​ from Washington​.

But when the two leaders met again in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February, they failed to agree on how to implement the Singapore deal. Mr. Kim insisted that his country could denuclearize only ​in phases. ​As the first​ step, he suggested, the United States should lift ​all major United Nations sanctions​ against his country​ in return for ​the dismantling of ​a key nuclear fuel production complex.

Mr. Trump demanded a quick and comprehensive elimination of the North’s nuclear weapons, as well as their means of delivery and production facilities, before easing any international sanctions.

​In Stockholm last month, negotiators had tried in vain to narrow the gaps. Washington said at the time that the American negotiators had presented the North Koreans with “creative ideas.”

On Thursday, Mr. Kim, the North Korean negotiator, indicated that​ the United States had offered incentives such as signing a document declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which was halted in a truce, and exchanging liaison offices in each other’s capitals.

But he said such incentives of “secondary importance” fell far short of meeting the North’s demand that the United States lift its “hostile policy,” which he said was “harmful to our rights to existence and development.”

North Korea has typically cited international sanctions and the United States’​ military threats, including its joint exercises with South Korea​, as part of such a hostile policy. Washington and Seoul are set to start a joint air-force drill later this month.

In a speech in April, Kim Jong-un said he would wait until the end of the year for Washington to come up with a more flexible proposal. In recent months, North Korea has resumed a series of missile and rocket tests, warning that it would find “a new way” if the Trump administration did not meet its demand by then.

In response to the latest North Korean statement, a State Department spokesperson said that Mr. Trump remained “committed to making progress toward the Singapore commitments of transformed relations, building lasting peace and complete denuclearization.”

Lara Jakes contributed reporting from Washington

Source: NYT > World News

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