The peace process between the United States and North Korea was in crisis yesterday after Pyongyang angrily rejected Washington's "gangster-like" demand for rapid nuclear disarmament, despite two days of intense talks.
The North's foreign ministry took exception to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's effort to secure concrete commitments to back leader Kim Jong Un's promise, made at a summit last month with U.S. President Donald Trump, to work towards the "denuclearization of the Korean peninsula". And it did so in stark terms, according to a statement relayed by the KCNA state news agency.
"The U.S. is fatally mistaken if it went to the extent of regarding that the DPRK would be compelled to accept, out of its patience, demands reflecting its gangster-like mindset," the statement said, referring to North Korea by its official initials.
Pyongyang noted that it had already destroyed a nuclear test site, a concession that Trump has publicly hailed as a victory for peace, and lamented that Pompeo had proved unwilling to match this with U.S. concessions. It dismissed Trump's unilateral order to suspend joint U.S. and South Korean war games as a cosmetic and "highly reversible" concession and criticized U.S. negotiatoars who "never mentioned" the subject of bringing the 1953 Korean War to a formal end with a peace treaty.
The North Korean statement came in stark comparison to Pompeo's comments before flying to Tokyo, and appears to represent a set-back to the process initiated between Kim and Trump last month.
Pompeo characterized the meeting as a success, though critically he failed to present any new details as to how North Korea would honor its summit commitment to denuclearize in exchange for U.S. security guarantees.
"These are complicated issues, but we made progress on almost all of the central issues, some places a great deal of progress, other places there's still more work to be done," Pompeo said.
Last month, Kim agreed to "work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" in return for security guarantees and an end to a dangerous stand-off with U.S. forces.
Trump hailed this as a successful resolution of the crisis. But the short joint statement was not a detailed roadmap to disarmament and it fell to Pompeo to follow up and put meat on the bones of the sparse commitment.