North Korea Wants Pompeo Out of Nuclear Talks

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walk together before a meeting in Pyongyang on Oct. 7, 2018. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

WASHINGTON (CN) – North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday it no longer wants Secretary of State Mike Pompeo involved in ongoing disarmament negotiations, after Pyongyang claimed he has been too reckless in his remarks about the talks.

Mere hours after North Korea claimed to have launched a new tactical guided weapon, senior Foreign Ministry official Kwon Jong Gun released a statement saying he was afraid if Pompeo joins in on denuclearization discussions moving forward, “the table will be lousy” and “talks will become entangled.” 

Pyongyang’s rebuke of Pompeo appears to have been spurred by comments he made during testimony before the U.S. Senate last week. Asked if he considered North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un a “tyrant,” Pompeo responded with little hesitation: “Sure. I’m sure I’ve said that.” 

Those remarks were “reckless” and “hurt the dignity” of North Korea’s leadership, Kwon said. 

Attempts by Pompeo to wrap up U.S.-North Korea nuclear negotiations by the end of the year are also too optimistic, Kwon said. He claimed the secretary is “talking nonsense” before saying that any attempt to rush the timeline for discussions would only subject Pompeo to “public ridicule.” 

In February, the second denuclearization summit between Washington and Pyongyang collapsed after the U.S. refused North Korea’s demands for total sanctions relief. The first talks between Kim and President Donald Trump held last June in Singapore opened the door for communication between the nations but produced little to no substantial agreement on disarmament.

But the State Department remained outwardly rosy on its interactions with Kim. After Pompeo’s visited the peninsula in July to flesh out further details around negotiations, he described resumed talks with North Korea as “productive” and executed in good faith.

But Pyongyang’s foreign ministry slammed Pompeo afterward, saying the visit was “regrettable” and accusing the secretary of making “gangster-like” demands.

On Thursday, Kwon said that even if it were possible to resume dialogue with the U.S., he wished “our dialogue counterpart would not be Pompeo but a person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.” 

Under Pompeo’s leadership, the State Department has frequently taken a tongue-in-check approach to diplomacy. Last September, the secretary tweeted a State Department seal with a modified title: “Department of Swagger.” 

Whether Pompeo will stay on in negotiations remains unclear, but additional talks are possible.  

In a speech last week, Kim indicated he was ready to meet President Trump for a third summit but only if the U.S. changed its approach to the negotiations. 

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