North Korea slams US denuclearisation demands

State media says Pompeo’s unilateral calls go against spirit of the Singapore Summit

Demetri Sevastopulo and Katrina Manson in Washington and Bryan Harris in Seoul


North Korea has accused the US of making “robber-like” demands in denuclearisation talks, in the first public sign of serious discord since Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met in Singapore.

After US secretary of state Mike Pompeo left Pyongyang on Saturday, North Korean state media said the US had made unilateral demands that breached the spirit of the Singapore summit.

“We expected that the US side would come with productive measures conducive to building trust in line with the spirit of the North-US summit and we considered providing something that would correspond to them,” said KCNA, the North Korean state-run media agency.

Mr Pompeo was making his third trip to Pyongyang and first visit since the summit. He described the talks as very productive. But it was the first time that he did not meet Kim Jong Un during a visit to Pyongyang, in another sign that the talks had not gone smoothly — which was later underscored by the North Korean statement.

Mr Pompeo said North Korea was still committed to the complete denuclearisation of the peninsula. But KCNA later criticised the US for pushing for “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation”. CVID had been US policy until the Singapore summit, but was not included in the joint statement, sparking criticism at the time that Mr Trump had gone soft on Pyongyang.

Following the Singapore summit, Mr Pompeo described suggestions that Mr Trump had taken a softer stance by not including the phrase CVID as “ludicrous”. But the North Korean statement on Saturday suggested that the US had behind the scenes been pushing for CVID — something North Korea resists because of the potential for US weapons inspectors to roam around the country.

“The US just came out with such unilateral and robber-like denuclearisation demands as CVID, declaration and verification that go against the spirit of the North-US summit,” said KCNA, adding that the “shortest path” to denuclearisation would be to “boldly break away from the failure-ridden methods of the past”.

In one exchange during the visit, Kim Yong Chol, the second most powerful person in North Korea who is leading the nuclear talks, referred obliquely to problems, telling Mr Pompeo at the start of their second day that: “Thinking about those discussions [on day one] you might have not slept well last night”.”

Mr Pompeo responded that he had slept well, but both men said there were “things” they had to clarify with their leaders.

In another sign of disagreement, North Korea demanded new approaches “based on trust and in a phased and synchronous principle”. The US has previously insisted that it would not agree to a step-for-step approach that would see North Korea be rewarded at different points along the path to denuclearisation, and has stressed that economic sanctions will remain in place until North Korea has completed the denuclearisation process.

The first signs of serious turbulence since the Singapore summit will make it harder for the Trump administration to rebut critics who say the US president was hoodwinked by Mr Kim. After returning to the US following the Singapore meeting, Mr Trump had provoked widespread ridicule for declaring that there was “no longer a nuclear threat” from Pyongyang.

“Either some of us are taking crazy pills and hallucinating about the canyon between US and DPRK interpretations, or this jig will be up soon one way or another,” tweeted Vipin Narang, a nuclear expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who said the US would either be “living in denial about NK nukes or . . . exploding at perceived betrayal and Kim’s ‘duplicity’.”

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