NATIONAL

Pyongyang confirms ready to resume talks, but gives conditions

By Park Han-na

Foreign minister confuses lawmakers on whether North Korean leader’s letter to Trump was different to one already made public

  • Published : Sept 16, 2019 - 16:09
  • Updated : Sept 16, 2019 - 20:45

The long-stalled US-North Korea working level talks on denuclearization could take place soon, a senior North Korea official signaled in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency on Monday that also set out conditions for the resumption of dialogue.

The director general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s department of American affairs said working-level talks will likely take place in a few weeks. He said the two countries may forge closer relations or hostility depend on what Washington brings to the table.

But he also set out a number of conditions.

US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un pose before a meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on Feb 27. (AFP)

“The discussion of denuclearization may be possible when threats and hurdles endangering our regime security and obstructing our development are clearly removed beyond all doubt,” the director general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s department of American affairs said.

The statement comes after North’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said last week that the country as willing to meet with the US in late September to restart talks.

Before that, uncertainty had mounted for two months with Pyongyang showing no significant signs of returning to the negotiating table. After Trump and Kim met at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea in late June, the US said working-level talks would resume by mid-July.

Following Choe’s announcement, Trump said that he expects to meet Kim this year.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha blundered in answering lawmakers’ question regarding a local media report that North Korean leader Kim had asked US President Donald Trump for a third summit and invited him to Pyongyang in a letter sent in August.

Earlier in the day, the Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported citing unnamed diplomatic sources that Kim’s letter, containing an invitation to Pyongyang, was delivered to Trump in the third week of August, separately from the one Trump unveiled earlier in the month.

Asked by a lawmaker whether Kim had sent such a letter, Kang said that she "heard a detailed explanation from the US that such a letter was (delivered),” during a session with members of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee Monday.

Kang declined to answer questions whether the US-North Korea summit was proposed to be held in Pyongyang or a summit proposal and an invitation to the regime’s capital city were separately made. “We are not in a position to confirm what the letter contains or when it was delivered.”

Kang’s statements at the National Assembly appeared to confirm that Kim had sent two letters last month, but the Foreign Ministry denied this.

The ministry said that the letter Kang had referred to was the one whose contents Trump had revealed via Twitter on Aug. 10. It said nothing has been confirmed about the letter reported by the Joongang Ilbo.

Trump said the North Korean leader stated that he would like to start negotiations as soon as South Korea-US joint military exercises ended. The annual drills wrapped up on Aug. 20.

In February, Trump and Kim met in Hanoi, Vietnam but failed to sign an agreement. Critics pointed out that they rashly jumped into the summit without holding working-level discussions on the specifics on the process and method of denuclearization.

Kang downplayed the possibility that Trump-Kim summit would take place ahead of lower-level dialogue.

“Working-level officials of the US and North Korea should meet for some time to have initial discussions on the result of the (Hanoi) summit for the sake of the success of US-North Korea summit,” Kang said.

Asked about the possibility of Kim attending the United Nations General Assembly, which will be held in New York from Sunday to Thursday, Kang said she “can’t completely rule out the possibility but signs for such a move have not been seen at all.”

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)