May 25, 2019
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North Korea considers suspending talks with US, resuming weapons testing

Seoul, Mar 15 (efe-epa).- North Korea, through its vice foreign minister, said it was considering suspending denuclearization talks with the United States, blaming it for the failure of a recent summit at Hanoi, and saying it could suspend the moratorium on weapons testing that it has adhered to for the last 15 months.

The summit on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at Hanoi, held around the end of February ended abruptly without any agreement.

North Korea's Choe Son-Hui had said at a press conference in Pyongyang on Friday that North Korea had "no intention to yield to the US demands (put forward at the Hanoi summit) in any form, nor are we willing to engage in negotiations of this kind," according to a report by Russian news agency Tass.

Choe blamed the US representatives for the breakdown in talks at Hanoi and accused them of being more concerned about trying to fulfill their own political interests and not having any real interest in achieving a positive result.

He also criticized US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, who were present at the recent summit, and accused them of creating an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust and disrupting constructive efforts made by the two leaders.

Choe and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho had appeared for a press conference in Hanoi after the summit in which they contradicted Trump regarding Pyongyang's demands at the negotiating table.

Both denied that North Korea had sought the lifting of all sanctions weighing on it and claimed they asked for only those to be lifted that affect the economic life of its citizens.

Although Washington and Pyongyang gave different versions of what happened at the Hanoi negotiating table, the disagreement revolved around the number of assets of the North Korean nuclear program to be dismantled and the volume of international sanctions on Pyongyang that would be alleviated as a "corresponding measure."

Bolton, considered an expert in matters of geostrategy, said after the summit that the US had demanded, besides the dismantling of nuclear installations of the regime, the elimination of all its biological and chemical weapons and its ballistic missile program.

Choe underlined that the relationship between Kim and Trump was good and both leaders shared an excellent personal chemistry.

The vice foreign minister's address may be seen as the first insinuation by North Korea over the break in talks following the failed summit.

Last week, satellite images captured activity in missile installations and a satellite launch base in North Korea.

The launch of a satellite using a space rocket would constitute an arms test - something Pyongyang has not done since November 2017 - before the international community, given that it would involve using technology similar to that of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

When asked about this possibility, Choe said the decision to put an end to the moratorium on weapons testing lay on Kim Jong-un, who would soon take a call on the matter.

Seoul issued a short statement on Friday saying the current situation could not be judged by merely listening to the declarations made by Choe, and that it would continue to try to push for talks on denuclearization between North Korea and the US.

Seoul has played a key role in mediating between Pyongyang and Washington and getting them to the negotiating table ever since a rapprochement between North Korea and South Korea - technically still at war - kicked off at the beginning of last year.

However, the South Korean Unification Ministry told EFE that the weekly inter-Korean meeting at the border on Fridays, which was started in September, has not been held for three weeks.

By Andres Sanchez Braun

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