North Korea rejects US offer of December talks
United States has insisted Kim Jong Un must dismantle his nuclear weapons programme first.
Reuters, Seoul :Â
North Korea said on Thursday it had turned down a U.S. offer for fresh talks, saying it was not interested in more talks merely aimed at "appeasing us" ahead of a year-end deadline Pyongyang has set for Washington to show more flexibility in negotiations.
Kim Myong Gil, North Korea's nuclear negotiator, said in a statement carried by the country's official KCNA news agency that Stephen Biegun, his U.S. counterpart who jointly led last month's failed denuclearisation talks in Stockholm, had offered through a third country to meet again.
Kim and Biegun met last month in the Swedish capital for the first time since U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed in June to re-open negotiations that have been stalled since a failed summit in Vietnam in February.
But the Stockholm meeting fell apart, with Kim Myong Gil saying the U.S. side had failed to present a new approach.
"If the negotiated solution of issues is possible, we are ready to meet with the U.S. at any place and any time," Kim Myong Gil said.
However, he said Biegun's proposal had a "sinister aim of appeasing us in a bid to pass with ease" Pyongyang's year-end deadline. "We have no willingness to have such negotiations." North Korea has been seeking a lifting of punishing sanctions, but the United States has insisted Kim Jong Un must dismantle his nuclear weapons programme first.
Meanwhile, North Korea confirmed that Thursday's missile launch used "super-large multiple rocket launchers," a new weapon that first debuted in August. The test sparked a fiery response from a U.S. lawmaker, who called for more sanctions against North Korea.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department said Trump remained committed to making progress on agreements he reached with Kim Jong Un at a first summit in Singapore in June last year, namely "transformed relations, building lasting peace, and complete denuclearisation."
After the collapse of the Hanoi summit, in April, Kim Jong Un set a year-end deadline for Washington to show more flexibility, raising concerns that North Korea could return to nuclear bomb and long-range missile testing suspended since 2017. Trump has repeatedly held up this freeze in such testing as evidence of progress in his engagement with North Korea. The latest North Korean statement came as U.S. defence officials were gathering in Seoul for annual meetings amid intensifying threats from North Korea to stop joint military drills. General Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, reaffirmed that Washington was ready to use the "full range" of its capabilities to defend South Korea from any attack.
Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at South Korea's Sejong Institute think-tank, said the North Korean statement appeared to be aimed at justifying future military actions.
Pyongyang has decried the U.S.-South Korea exercises as hostile, even in the current reduced form. On Wednesday, it threatened to retaliate if the allies go ahead with scheduled drills in a rare statement from the State Affairs Commission, a top governing body chaired by leader Kim Jong Un.