U.S.-North Korea Talks Stumble as Pyongyang Knocks Pompeo Effort

U.S.-North Korea talks hit their first major stumbling block since last month’s landmark summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, with Pyongyang dismissing American demands after two days of negotiations as “cancerous” and “gangster-like.”

North Korea’s criticism of the talks in Pyongyang fueled further doubts about whether Trump will ever achieve his goal of “complete denuclearization,” much less on the timeline of one to 2-1/2 years set out by various administration officials. The North Koreans were far more pessimistic in their assessment than the U.S.’s lead negotiator, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called the meetings “productive.”

“The U.S. side came up only with its unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization,” an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman said in statement published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency a few hours after Pompeo’s departure. The official said that U.S. calls for “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization,” run “counter to the spirit of the Singapore summit.”

The statement ended with a personal appeal to the U.S. leader. “We still cherish our good faith in President Trump,” the official said. Notably, Kim Jong Un didn’t meet with Pompeo, as he had on the U.S. envoy’s previous two trips to Pyongyang.

The dust-up exposed key disagreements that have continued to divide the U.S. and North Korea, despite the historic imagery of Trump and Kim shaking hands and signing a vague, 1-1/2 page agreement on June 12. Trump has since the summit continued to assert that North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat,” even though Kim made no commitment to unilaterally disarm and appears to be pressing ahead with nuclear and missile programs.

In Tokyo on Sunday, Pompeo said in a tweet that he would discuss maintaining the U.S.’s “maximum pressure” campaign on North Korea with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono — a term Trump has said he was avoiding to foster diplomacy with Kim.

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Nick Wadhams and Anthony Capaccio