About the Author
Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
This story has been updated to include additional comments from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
The United States should be ready to apply “additional pressure on the Kim regime,” Senator Edward J. Markey’s office said on Friday in response to a warning from North Korea’s foreign ministry the day before.
Markey’s office said it had expressed “concern” about the comments attributed Thursday to DPRK Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, who said Thursday that Pyongyang has “no intention” to meet U.S. demands for further concessions on its nuclear program.
At a special briefing for journalists and diplomats in Pyongyang, Choe also said that Kim Jong Un would “soon” make an announcement regarding whether to continue an ongoing moratorium on missile and nuclear testing, implemented since April last year.
“Comments from North Korean officials threatening to discard diplomacy and return to nuclear testing if the United States doesn’t lift a wide range of sanctions is nothing short of extortion,” Senator Markey was quoted by his office as saying.
“With theatrics like this, Kim Jong Un is confirming the view of skeptics that he is not interested in conducting serious, good faith efforts to denuclearize,” the statement continued, which was released via email.
As a result, in the event Pyongyang decides to abandon diplomacy or “conduct new provocations,” Washington must be “ready to apply additional pressure on the Kim regime,” Markey said.
It is thought that the U.S. has a huge array of new sanctions prepared on North Korea in the event diplomacy falls apart.
President Trump said last June that “we have a list of over 300 massive, in some cases, sanctions to put on North Korea.”
“I’ve decided to hold that until we can make a deal, because I really believe there’s potential to make a deal, and I don’t think it’s nice going in under those circumstances,” he said just a week before the Singapore summit.
Choe said on Thursday that talks in Hanoi broke down because of the U.S. side, who “were too busy with pursuing their own political interests and had no sincere intention to achieve a result,” a TASS transcript said.
In particular, Choe blamed U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo and U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, who she said “created the atmosphere of hostility and mistrust and, therefore, obstructed the constructive effort for negotiations between the supreme leaders of North Korea and the United States.”
Following her statement, Bolton on Friday was quoted by AP as saying Choe’s description of his role was “inaccurate,” and that he had spoken with his South Korean counterpart about the North Korean allegations.
One expert said Choe’s warning meant a Kim Jong Un announcement would likely come at “a party meeting in the run-up to the opening session of the new parliament in early April.”
“Kim Jong Un could announce his position on nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and possibly even how he intends to follow up on his comment in his New Year’s speech about “seeking a new path” if the US continues to exert pressure,” said Minyoung Lee, an analyst at NK Pro.
“For example, North Korea convened a party meeting two days before the parliamentary session in April 2018 where he delivered a “report” on Korean peninsula affairs.”
During a press conference also held on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated Washington remained interested in pursuing a diplomatic track with North Korea.
“We’re hopeful that we can continue to have conversations, negotiations,” Pompeo said.
“It’s the administration’s desire that we continue to have conversations around this.”
Main picture: PXSphere, edited by NK News