North Korea gives US deadline for new approach after nuclear talks break down
By MIN JOO KIM | The Washington Post | Published: October 6, 2019
SEOUL — North Korea on Sunday gave the Trump administration until the end of the year to change its approach to nuclear negotiations if it wants the talks to continue.
"As we have clearly identified the way for solving problem, the fate of the future DPRK-U.S. dialogue depends on the U.S. attitude, and the end of this year is its deadline," the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The statement came a day after the sides met in Stockholm to restart the talks after an eight-month stalemate — and then disagreed publicly over how they went. The Trump administration described the working-level talks as a "good discussion." The foreign ministry called them "sickening."
The top North Korean nuclear envoy, Kim Myong Gil, said Saturday night that the working-level talks had broken off "entirely due to the United States' failure to abandon its outdated viewpoint and attitude."
On Sunday, the Foreign Ministry accused the administration of "misleading the public opinion by touting 'good discussions.' "
President Donald Trump said last month that he was open to exploring a "new method" in the negotiations. Kim Myong Gil quickly responded with a statement welcoming the"new method" in place of the "Libyan model" of shipping out North Korea's nuclear weapons before granting sanctions relief.
The Libyan model had been promoted by John Bolton, who was ousted last month as Trump's national security adviser.
Chad O'Carroll, chief executive of the Korea Risk Group, said the North Korean negotiators might have gone to Stockholm with a "radical expectation" after Trump fired Bolton and floated a possibility of a "new method" in talks.
"Ahead of what is likely to be a bumpy election campaign for Trump in 2020, it appears that the North may be hoping that the combined effect of the ticking clock and American fears of long-range missile and nuclear tests in the year ahead will stimulate a significant shift in U.S. strategy at the eleventh hour," O'Carroll said in an analysis posted on the NK Pro website.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry accused Washington on Sunday of "abusing the DPRK-U. S. dialogue for its domestic political events."
Saturday's talks were the first since Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam in February. Trump's personal diplomatic overtures to Kim Jong Un, including an informal meeting at the Korean Peninsula's demilitarized zone in June, were put to a test as Pyongyang resumed weapons tests.
North Korea tested a new submarine-launched ballistic missile on Wednesday, days before the nuclear talks with Washington were set to resume.
Kim Myong Gil said that whether Pyongyang breaks its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and missile testing "entirely depends on the stance of the United States."
The Foreign Ministry said the "sickening negotiations" will not be resumed unless Washington takes measures to ensure a "complete and irreversible withdrawal of the hostile policy toward the DPRK."
At his first meeting with Kim Jong Un last year, Trump called for an end to U.S.-South Korea military exercises on the Korean Peninsula before getting concrete disarmament promises in return — a proposal that took officials in Washington and Seoul by surprise.
The United States and South Korea have since scaled down the joint military drills. But Pyongyang accused Washington of reneging on its commitments and threatened to resume missile tests.
Analysts say Trump's two summit meetings with Kim Jong Un failed to produce concrete progress in nuclear disarmament because there were no substantive working-level talks to iron out details in advance.
"Trump's engagement of Kim has been top-down and summit-driven," said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. "But one of the lessons from Hanoi is that there needs to be more bottom-up problem solving."
The two leaders met in the Vietnamese capital in February for a fanfare-filled summit meeting without having narrowed down critical differences at the senior expert level. The meeting collapsed without a deal as North Korea demanded a package of sanctions relief in exchange for what the United States viewed as too few denuclearization steps.
Van Jackson, a former Pentagon official, said the breakdown of talks in Stockholm revealed the risks of Trump's personal diplomacy.
"From North Korea's perspective, there is nothing to be gained from working-level talks as long as Trump is a doormat," said Jackson, a lecturer at New Zealand's Victoria University of Wellington.
He said Pyongyang will likely boycott further working-level meetings in favor of planning another summit with Trump, and could return to weapons testing.
The State Department said Washington is willing to resume discussions with Pyongyang in two weeks. The Foreign Ministry dismissed that time frame on Sunday as "ungrounded."