North Korea threatens to call off denuclearisation talks

North Korea has ratcheted up its criticism of the US and South Korea in a statement on state media saying Pyongyang had no interest in dialogue as long as the US and South Korea continued to make “military threats” against the communist state. 

The latest criticism damped growing expectations for a quick resumption of working-level talks on denuclearisation between the US and North Korea and contradicted a statement made later on Thursday by South Korea’s national security adviser, Kim Hyun-chong, after meeting US envoy Stephen Biegun for North Korea in Seoul, who said he thought denuclearisation talks would restart soon.

North Korea’s KCNA news agency said Pyongyang remained open to further talks but added: “Dialogue accompanied by military threats is of no interest to us.”

The comments came after the Pentagon said on Monday it had tested a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of more than 500km in its first such test since Washington pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Pyongyang’s statement also followed news that South Korea also took delivery of two additional F-35A fighter jets this week as part of its plan to deploy 40 F-35As through 2021. 

North Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman called the moves a “grave provocation” that would trigger a new cold war in the region, according to the KCNA statement. 

Working-level denuclearisation talks between the US and North Korea have stalled since February after the failed second summit in Hanoi between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. However Mr Trump and Mr Kim agreed to restart the negotiations when they met at the end of June in the demilitarised zone that separates the two Koreas. 

Since then North Korea has carried out a number of missile launches and weapons tests in protest at joint military drills by South Korea and the US, which ended on Tuesday. 

Mr Trump has downplayed North Korea’s recent short-range missile tests and said last week that Mr Kim had expressed his willingness to resume talks once the joint military exercises were over. Mr Biegun said on Wednesday that the US was ready to engage “as soon as we hear from our counterparts in North Korea”. 

“North Korea, dragging its feet, is trying to extract better conditions from the US,” said Shin Beom-chul, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “Pyongyang believes time is on its side now that it has secured Chinese backing.” 

Meanwhile, China and North Korea have made an agreement to boost military co-operation during a visit by a high-ranking military delegation from Pyongyang to Beijing last week, according to statements released on Chinese and North Korean state media.

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