u.s.-north korea relations
January 11, 2020

Birthday wishes don't solve everything, apparently.

In a statement published Saturday by North Korean state media, Kim Kye Gwan — a foreign ministry official and top adviser to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — said Pyongyang has been "deceived" by the United States and will not engage in talks similar to the one between President Trump and Kim that took place last year in Vietnam. The statement said past denuclearization negotiations with Washington amounted to nothing but "lost time" for North Korea.

The news comes shortly after President Trump sent Kim a letter for his birthday. It appears the North Korean leader may have appreciated the letter since Kim Kye Gwan said Kim still does have "good personal feelings" for Trump. But he added those feelings were just that — personal; they don't, he hinted, reflect the current state of the relationship between the two countries.

The adviser also had some harsh words for South Korea, whom he accused of meddling in U.S.-North Korea relations after Seoul announced Trump had asked South Korea to help deliver the birthday message. Read more at CNN and The Hill. Tim O'Donnell

December 29, 2019

North Korea has Washington on edge these days. That feeling was amplified Sunday when North Korean state media announced that Pyongyang's ruling Workers' Party launched a major political conference.

The meeting comes ahead of a year-end deadline the country set for the United States to offer concessions amid stalled denuclearization negotiations. While the state news network utilized typically vague language to describe the event, it's clear that the party will focus on how the country plans to address the "harsh trials and difficulties" it faces, including national defense.

The Associated Press reports observers are keeping a close eye on how things unfold as some suspect Pyongyang may finally announce its plans to abandon diplomacy with the U.S. during the conference and begin major weapons tests again after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to suspend activity in April 2018.

If Pyongyang does resume those tests, White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said the U.S. "has a lot of tools in our toolkit" when asked about how the Trump administration would respond, though he refused to go into detail. Read more at The Hill and The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

December 21, 2019

There were no weapons tests this time, but North Korea once again made some trans-Pacific waves Saturday.

Pyongyang's state news agency, KCNA, issued a statement attributed to a foreign ministry spokesman warning the United States in response to Washington's recent decision to join several other states in condemning North Korea's human rights abuses in an annual United Nations General Assembly resolution Wednesday. The KCNA statement said if the U.S. continued to call out North Korea's human rights problems, Washington would "pay dearly."

It's not clear what exactly the threat entails, but it does seem to fall in line with Pyongyang's rhetoric of late that indicates North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un is gearing up to throw the possibility of diplomacy out of the window unless the U.S. makes some denuclearization concessions soon.

It's the first statement from North Korea's foreign ministry since U.S. Special Envoy Stephen Biegun publicly urged Pyongyang to resume negotiations, a sentiment echoed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday. But it doesn't look like North Korea is ready to budge. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

December 14, 2019

North Korea appears committed to that year-end deadline.

The country conducted its second successful test this week geared toward strengthening Pyongyang's nuclear deterrent at the Sohae satellite launch site Friday, state media said Saturday. Although North Korea's Academy of Defense Science didn't specify what was tested, the trial may have included technologies to improve intercontinental ballistic missiles, The Associated Press reports. North Korea considers ICBMs as strategic defensive weapons.

The test, in addition to one on Dec. 7, is widely seen as an attempt to pressure the Trump administration to make major concessions in nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang. North Korea set a year-end deadline for the United States to change course from its insistence on unilateral denuclearization before it sets out on a "new path."

Still some experts don't believe North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will reverse course too drastically and create tensions that existed in 2017 by running nuclear and ICBM tests. Instead, they predict he'll try to provoke Trump with military activities that don't pose a direct threat to Washington and by strengthening Pyongyang's alliance with Moscow and Beijing, AP reports. Read more at Reuters and The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

November 10, 2019

The United States is seemingly running out of time to re-establish talks with North Korea, and South Korea says Washington is "very actively" trying to make sure that doesn't happen.

A year-end deadline for the U.S. to show more flexibility in denuclearization talks with North Korea set by Pyongyang earlier this year is fast approaching. Chung Eui-yong, a South Korean national security adviser, said Sunday that Seoul is taking the date "very seriously," adding that the government was in coordination with the United States.

But, so far, after the most recent round of talks failed in October, there hasn't been much movement. "Only if talks between high-rank officials happen and lead to substantial progress, will the third North Korea-United States summit be possible," Chung told reporters, per Reuters.

North Korea acknowledged Friday that the window for talks was indeed closing. Pyongyang, however, did not elaborate on what would happen after the deadline, so it's unclear if there would be any chance of reviving talks at a later date. Of course, it's possible the deadline is mainly a negotiating tactic, though it sounds like Washington and Seoul would prefer not to wait and see. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

October 6, 2019

That didn't last long.

North Korea said nuclear talks with the United States broke down again after the two sides met in Stockholm, Sweden, on Saturday in an attempt to revive negotiations after months of stalemate. Pyongyang's chief negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, blamed the U.S. for being inflexible and said that Washington would not "give up their old viewpoint and attitude."

The U.S. did not agree with North Korea's sentiment, however, and even accepted Sweden's invitation to return to Stockholm in two weeks for another round of talks, Reuters reports. "The U.S. brought creative ideas and had good discussions with its DPRK counterparts," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. "The United States and the DPRK will not overcome a legacy of 70 years of war and hostility on the Korean peninsula through the course of a single Saturday."

The Swedish foreign office reportedly declined to say whether Pyongyang had accepted their invitation to return for more talks, so despite North Korea's rhetoric, there is apparently still a chance they'll return to the table. But Van Jackson, a former Pentagon official who now lectures at New Zealand's Victoria University of Wellington, told The Washington Post that North Korea is likely to boycott more working-level meetings like the one on Saturday in favor of another major summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump. Read more at Reuters and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

August 31, 2019

North Korea is not thrilled with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the moment.

North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said Saturday that the country's expectations for restarting talks with the Trump administration were "gradually disappearing" after she criticized Pompeo for describing North Korean behavior as "rogue" during a Tuesday speech in Indiana. Choe called the comments "thoughtless" remarks that increased North Korea's animosity toward the U.S. "The U.S. had better not put any longer our patience to the test with such remarks irritating us if it doesn't want to have bitter regrets afterward," Choe said.

Last week, North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho also had some choice words for Pompeo in response to Pompeo's announcement that Washington would maintain strong sanctions until Pyongyang denuclearized. The minister called Pompeo a "die hard toxin of the U.S. diplomacy."

Earlier in August, President Trump said he had received a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promising to resume talks once joint U.S.-South Korean military drills ended. The training exercises have come and gone, but North Korea has yet to show any signs of wanting to re-engage with Trump and seemingly remains unhappy with the U.S. Tim O'Donnell

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