North Korea has no intention to sit down with the United States and urged South Korea to “stop meddling,” a senior diplomat said on Tuesday, just as a U.S. envoy was due to visit Seoul in an effort to renew stalled nuclear talks with Pyongyang.
Kwon Jong Gun, director general for U.S. affairs at Pyongyang’s foreign ministry, accused South Korea of misinterpreting an earlier North Korean statement dismissing an “untimely rumour” about another summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.
North Korea said on Saturday it does not feel the need for a new summit, days after South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who had offered to mediate between Kim and Trump, suggested the two leaders meet again before the U.S. elections in November.
“It is just the time for (South Korea) to stop meddling in others’ affairs but it seems there is no cure or prescription for its bad habit,” Kwon said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
“Explicitly speaking once again, we have no intention to sit face to face with the United States.”
Trump and Kim met for the first time in 2018 in Singapore, raising hopes for a negotiated end to Pyongyang’s nuclear programmes. But their second summit, in 2019 in Vietnam, and subsequent working-level negotiations fell apart.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said Kwon’s statement reflected lingering inter-Korean tensions and Pyongyang’s view that nuclear issues should be discussed only with Washington.
“It also suggested that North Koreans would ditch the past concept of negotiations where the South played a broker role, and won’t return to the table without major U.S. concessions,” Yang said.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who led the talks with the North Koreans, is due to arrive in Seoul later on Tuesday for talks with Seoul officials over ways to revive the negotiations.
Biegun said last week there is time for both sides to re-engage and “make substantial progress,” but the coronavirus pandemic would make an in-person summit difficult before the U.S. presidential elections on Nov. 3.
Last month, North Korea abruptly raised tensions with South Korea and blew up a joint liaison office, just on its side of the border, before just as suddenly suspending plans for unspecified military actions.