North Korea blasts US for canceling talks

The Trump administration’s decision late last week to cancel another round of in-person talks with North Korea was met with harsh reaction over the weekend, with a state-run newspaper in Pyongyang accusing the U.S. of “hatching a criminal plot” against the reclusive country and Chinese officials blasting the White House as “irresponsible.”

The blistering comments — along with South Korea labeling the move “unfortunate” — threaten to undermine what had appeared to be a promising path to denuclearization following President Trump’s historic summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un earlier this summer.

But Mr. Trump and other U.S. officials in recent days have said Pyongyang has done little to hold up its end of the bargain, and the president on Friday scrapped a planned visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to North Korea. Mr. Trump also accused China of being insincere in its attempts to facilitate talks between the U.S. and North Korea.

The cancellation of the visit, combined with U.S. military units in Japan staging recent air drills, sparked outrage in Pyongyang.

“Such acts prove that the U.S. is hatching a criminal plot to unleash a war against the DPRK and commit a crime which deserves merciless divine punishment in case the U.S. fails in the scenario of the DPRK’s unjust and brigandish denuclearisation first,” the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper wrote in an editorial Sunday. “We cannot but take a serious note of the double-dealing attitudes of the U.S. as it is busy staging secret drills involving man-killing special units while having a dialogue with a smile on its face.”

DPRK is the acronym for North Korea’s formal name — the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Beijing also pushed back hard against Mr. Trump’s claim that China isn’t willing to help. China’s full support is seen as critical to any real, lasting denuclearization deal.

“The U.S. statement violates basic facts and is irresponsible,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We are seriously concerned about it and have made solemn representations to the U.S. side.”

While North Korea claims it’s committed to denuclearizing the peninsula, U.S. officials have said they’ve seen little tangible progress on that front. The Trump administration has promised the lifting of sanctions and private U.S. business investment into the country if a true nuclear deal is achieved.

Mr. Pompeo’s scheduled visit to North Korea — it would’ve been his fourth trip there — looked to be another step forward in the negotiating process. But the president pulled the plug Friday.

“I have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea, at this time, because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Mr. Trump tweeted.

“Additionally, because of our much tougher Trading stance with China, I do not believe they are helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were (despite the UN Sanctions which are in place),” he tweeted. “Secretary Pompeo looks forward to going to North Korea in the near future, most likely after our Trading relationship with China is resolved. In the meantime I would like to send my warmest regards and respect to Chairman Kim. I look forward to seeing him soon!”

Meanwhile, South Korea — a key U.S. ally in the region that desperately wants to see Pyongyang’s nuclear program fully dismantled — tried to cast itself as a bridge between the two sides. The South Korean Foreign Ministry over the weekend said it expects China to continue playing a “constructive role” in the process and urged the U.S. not to give up.

“It’s most important to maintain a long-term view while maintaining a momentum for dialogue and concentrate diplomatic efforts to faithfully implement the agreements from the summits between South Korea and North Korea and between North Korea and the United States, instead of attaching meaning to each change in the situation,” the ministry said.

“While we consider the delay of the visit to North Korea as unfortunate, we believe it’s most important for the North Korea-U.S. dialogue including Secretary Pompeo’s visits to North Korea to contribute to substantial progress in complete denuclearization and the establishment of a permanent peace regime in the Korean Peninsula,” the ministry said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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