North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is no longer interested in discussing denuclearization plans with US President Donald Trump after their recent failed summit in the Vietnamese capital, a senior Pyongyang official has warned.
“I have a feeling that Chairman Kim may have lost the will” to negotiate with Trump, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency on Friday. “It’s my personal feeling.”
“I think about whether [we] should continue talks,” she added, questioning the need to continue denuclearization talks with the Washington after Trump said Thursday that he had to walk away from the meeting with Kim in Hanoi.
The American president said Pyongyang was ready to make concessions but not in areas that Washington had hoped for. He also claimed that Kim insisted on removing all US sanctions as a per-requisite to denuclearization.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, however, offered a starkly different breakdown of the summit, telling reporters in a separate presser that Pyongyang never asked for the removal of all sanctions.
According to him, Pyongyang had relayed to Trump that it was ready to “permanently and completely dismantle all the nuclear production facilities” at Yongbyon – its main site – if the US agreed to scrap sanctions “that hamper the civilian economy and the livelihood of our people.”
Choe’s remarks on Friday echoed those of Kim, who warned in his New Year’s message that Pyongyang may take “a new path” if Washington keeps the country under pressure and sanctions.
Trump and Kim met at a historic summit in Singapore for the first time last year, where they agreed to work towards denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Subsequent diplomacy between the two sides, however, has made little progress, mainly because the US refused to lift harsh sanctions on the North.
So far, Pyongyang has taken several steps toward the goal by suspending missile and nuclear testing, demolishing at least one nuclear test site, and agreeing to allow international inspectors into a missile engine test facility.
Washington, however, insisted that sanctions on the North must remain in place until it completely and irreversibly its nuclear program.
Choe said in her remarks that Washington should have rewarded Pyongyang adequately by lifting at least some of the sanctions.
Before leaving Hanoi on Thursday night, Trump claimed that the talks collapsed because Kim wanted all the sanctions lifted without firmly committing to eliminate his nuclear weapons.
Ri, however, said Pyongyang was even ready to offer in writing a permanent halt of its nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests.