North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement Thursday telling South Korea that its leadership “better mind their own internal business” after President Moon Jae-in revealed this week that dictator Kim Jong-un was considering a third summit with American President Donald Trump.
The statement, attributed to Department of American Affairs Director-General Kwon Jong Gun, also disparaged the United States, comparing American officials to “a parrot,” and accused Seoul of trying to attract positive publicity for bringing peace to the two countries without actually playing a significant role in U.S.-North Korean relations.
The statement appears to be a response to Moon’s remarks in an interview with several international news outlets in anticipation of this week’s G20 conference in which he claimed the last Trump-Kim summit, which occurred this February in Hanoi, Vietnam, was not a failure despite President Trump walking out halfway through because, he alleged, the North Koreans were being intransigent in their demands.
Kwon’s statement began by clarifying that the North Koreans did not support Trump administration policies as they stood and the relationship between Washington and Pyongyang was not as positive as Moon made it appear.
“The United States is now talking much about the DPRK [North Korea]-U.S. dialogue, but in reality, it is becoming more and more desperate in its hostile acts against the DPRK,” Kwon is quoted as saying. “The DPRK-U.S. dialogue would not open by itself though the U.S. repeatedly talks about resumption of dialogue like a parrot without considering any realistic proposal that would fully conform with the interests of both sides.”
Kwon did confirm that Kim Jong-un is considering a third summit with Trump.
“Even though we are to think of holding a dialogue with the U.S., we need first to see a proper approach towards the negotiation on the part of the U.S.,” he said. “Negotiation should be conducted with a counterpart who has a good sense of communication, and it could also be possible only when the U.S. comes up with a proper counterproposal.”
“In case the U.S. intends to sit with folded arms like today, time might be enough. However, if the U.S. is to move towards producing a result, time will not be enough,” Kwon added. He also threatened that “our repeated warning” of unspecified consequences for the United States if it does not cede to North Korea’s demands “is not merely an empty word.”
Kwon saved his harshest words, however, for South Korea.
“I would also take this opportunity to say a word to the south Korean authorities who are trying to refurbish their image by giving a publicity [sic] as if they are ‘mediating’ the DPRK-U.S. relations,” he wrote. North Korea considers South Korea its breakaway province, not a sovereign country, so North Korean media never capitalize the word “south” in its name. “In the true sense of the word, parties to the DPRK-U.S. dialogue are none other than the DPRK and the U.S., and in view of the origin of the DPRK-U.S. hostility, the south Korean authorities have nothing to meddle in the dialogue.”
“The south Korean authorities are now giving a wide publicity as if the north and the south are having various forms of exchanges and closed-door meetings, but the reality is the contrary,” he concluded. “The south Korean authorities would better mind their own internal business.”
Kwon noted that there was no reason to use South Korea as a middleman between Pyongyang and Washington because “the personal relations between Comrade Chairman of the State Affairs Commission and the U.S. President” remained positive, and the two can communicate with each other whenever they want. The two communicated most recently last week through mailed letters to each other. Kim reportedly sent Trump a “beautiful” letter congratulating him on his birthday. According to North Korean state media, Kim received an “excellent” response last weekend.
The Moon interview that infuriated North Korean authorities was published on the back of the news of the letter exchange. Speaking to several American, South Korean, Russian, and Chinese news outlets, Moon said that Pyongyang and Washington were “engaged in dialogue in regard to a third summit.”
Moon said the two sides “have already reached an agreement on the ultimate goal of denuclearization talks” which, if true, would be a major breakthrough. “In summary, North Korea’s complete denuclearization was to be exchanged for a security guarantee for the North’s regime and an end to their hostile relations. This agreement is still valid.”
According to Moon, the two had agreed that the complete dismantling of the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center – the facility believed to be used for enriching nuclear materials, but not to build the weapons – would constitute “complete denuclearization.”
While Moon did not explicitly say that South Korean authorities were mediating between America and North Korea, many interpreted the fact that he broke the news of a potential third summit to mean that the South Koreans were involved in the talks that made it possible.
A third summit between Kim and Trump would have to overlook the abrupt end of the second. In Hanoi, President Trump left negotiations after the first of two scheduled days, telling reporters Pyongyang was seeking sanction relief without offering to end its illegal nuclear weapons program. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho disputed Trump’s claim, stating that Kim had offered to shut down Yongbyon in exchange for sanctions relief. Subsequent reports revealed that Kim wanted not only sanctions relief but full recognition for North Korea as a nuclear power and visits to the country by “famous basketball players” in exchange for shutting down his nuclear program.
Trump is scheduled to visit South Korea this weekend following the conclusion of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.