The U.S. will soon need to decide what kind of “Christmas gift” it will receive from North Korea, an official from the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said Tuesday, in a statement reminding Washington of Pyongyang’s fast-approaching end-of-year deadline for diplomacy to produce results.
The remarks, delivered by vice foreign minister Ri Thae Song and carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), bemoaned a lack of progress in talks with the U.S., complaining that Washington is yet to provide compensation for what the DPRK has claimed have been good-faith measures to improve ties.
“The DPRK has done everything transparently and openly so far,” Ri, who was promoted earlier in the year and was described by state media as now heading up the MFA’s U.S. affairs portfolio, was quoted as having said in an English-language readout.
“[The DPRK] feels no need to hide what it will do from now on and therefore, reminds the U.S. once again that the year-end time limit comes nearer,” he continued.
In a likely reference to a self-declared moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear testing by the DPRK, and frequently touted by U.S. President Donald Trump as proof of his successes in diplomacy, Ri on Tuesday hinted the country could reverse that decision in the near future.
“The DPRK has done its utmost with maximum perseverance not to backtrack from the important steps it has taken on its own initiative,” he said. “What is left to be done now is the U.S. option and it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get.”
“The DPRK has done everything transparently and openly so far. It feels no need to hide what it will do from now on and therefore, reminds the U.S. once again that the year-end time limit comes nearer.”
Tuesday’s comments follow weeks of stalled negotiations between the DPRK and the U.S. in the wake of failed talks between the two countries in Stockholm, Sweden in early October.
Despite the U.S.’s decision early last month to postpone a series of planned joint air combat drills with South Korea — a move intended to facilitate diplomacy with Pyongyang — North Korea has urged Washington to drop its “hostile policy” against it once and for all before talks can go ahead.
The U.S. has, however, remained publicly optimistic about prospects for talks, with Special Representative Stephen Biegun telling U.S. Senators last month that the “window is still open” for the two to strike a deal.
He also urged his DPRK counterpart, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son Hui, to respond to overtures for a resumption of working-level talks.
But North Korea on Tuesday appeared to rule out a return to negotiations anytime soon, reiterating complaints by another senior MFA official last month that the U.S. is simply seeking to buy time in negotiations for domestic political reasons.
“The dialogue touted by the U.S. is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the U.S.,” he said.
“The DPRK has heard more than enough dialogue rhetoric raised by the U.S. whenever it is driven into a tight corner.”
One expert noted that Tuesday’s statement, while “relatively soft-toned,” made clear that the DPRK means to hold the U.S. true to its stated end-of-year deadline.
“It warns the U.S. on no ambivalent terms that it will go ahead with its own plan if the U.S. does not make concessions by the year-end deadline,” Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with NK News’s sister site NK Pro, said.
“Further suggesting that Pyongyang no longer feels the need to keep reiterating its position, the press statement notably omits calling on the U.S. to withdraw it’s ‘hostile policy,’ a shift from its recent official pronouncements.”
Edited by James Fretwell
Featured image: NK News file photo