Prospects for dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea are increasingly narrowing, the DPRK’s foreign ministry warned on Tuesday, in a statement condemning a recent report by the State Department on Pyongyang’s role as a state sponsor of terrorism.
In comments carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a spokesperson for the North’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said the U.S. comments — contained in its Country Reports on Terrorism 2018 released last week — were indicative of a continued “hostile policy” by Washington.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK condemns and fully rejects the reports as a grave politically-motivated provocation against the DPRK as they are full of all sorts of falsity and fabrication,” the spokesperson said, stressing Pyongyang’s “consistent stand… to oppose all forms of terrorism.”
“It is unreasonable that the U.S., hotbed and ringleader of terrorism, is styling itself a ‘judge of terrorism,'” they continued. “It is also just like a guilty party filing the suit first.”
The U.S.’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism, which features a broad overview of terrorism around the world as well as those countries assessed by Washington to be State Sponsors of Terrorism, including North Korea, was released on November 1.
This year’s report, however, was relatively light in its criticism of North Korea, broadly stating that the U.S. had redesignated the DPRK in 2017 due to its having “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, as the DPRK was implicated in assassinations on foreign soil.”
But coming as it does amid a broader stalemate in diplomacy between the two countries, North Korea’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said the U.S.’s classification of the country as a State Sponsor of Terrorism represented an “insult” against a “dialogue partner.”
“The channel of the dialogue between the DPRK and the U.S. is more and more narrowing due to such attitude and stand of the U.S.,” they added.
In the wake of failed working-level talks between the two in Stockholm early last month, North Korea has increasingly sought to build pressure on the U.S. and to remind it of leader Kim Jong Un’s end-of-year deadline for a deal with the U.S.
In a statement in late October, senior official Kim Yong Chol warned that the reported “good” relationship between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump was no guarantee that an ongoing détente between the two countries would last.
“The U.S. is seriously mistaken if it is of the idea of passing off in peace the end of this year, by exploiting the close personal relations between its president and the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK,” Kim said.
Earlier that week, North Korean foreign ministry adviser Kim Kye Gwan lamented the fact that other forces within the U.S. were hampering progress.
“The problem is that contrary to the political judgment and intention of President Trump, Washington political circles and DPRK policy makers of the U.S. administration are hostile to the DPRK for no reason, preoccupied with the Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice,” Kim said.
“There is a will, there is a way. We want to see how wisely the U.S. will pass the end of the year.”
Tuesday’s statement, one expert said, ties into North Korea’s “hardening position on the U.S.” of late.
“North Korea often mentions U.S. ‘hostile policy,’ but this expression has taken on greater importance after the Stockholm talks,” Minyoung Lee, an analyst with NK News‘s sister site NK Pro, said.
“Following the talks, the North Korean Foreign Ministry stipulated U.S. withdrawal of its ‘hostile policy’ as a precondition for the resumption of DPRK-U.S. denuclearization talks,” she added.
Despite this, Lee said, it does not suggest a strategic shift in Pyongyang’s U.S. policy was taken place.
“First, indicating that the pronouncement was aimed at conveying a message to the U.S. without changing its posture on the U.S. for now, the North withheld this pronouncement from the domestic public, issuing it via its externally oriented media outlets only,” she explained.
“Second, this was a low-level foreign ministry pronouncement, which enabled Pyongyang to voice its displeasure while maintaining distance.”
Despite this, South Korean officials have sought to project optimism about the current state of play, with President Moon Jae-in at a summit in Bangkok on Tuesday hailing “great progress in the peace process” and talking up prospects for more working-level talks and a fourth meeting between Trump and Kim.
Officials from the country’s National Intelligence Service (NIS), too, on Monday reportedly told a closed-door briefing of lawmakers that the North Korean leader was aiming for another DPRK-U.S. summit by December and that the two sides could soon hold further working-level talks.
“As the two sides identified each other’s stances at the Stockholm talks in October, the time appears to be coming for them to launch full-fledged consultations,” opposition lawmaker Lee Eun-jae said, in comments carried by the Yonhap News Agency.
Edited by Jacob Fromer
Featured image: KCNA