North Korea abandons nuclear freeze pledge, blames ‘brutal’ U.S. sanctions

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – North Korea said on Tuesday it was no longer bound by commitments to halt nuclear and missile testing, blaming the United States’ failure to meet a year-end deadline for nuclear talks and “brutal and inhumane” U.S. sanctions.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un set an end-December deadline for denuclearization talks with the United States and White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said at the time the United States had opened channels of communication.

O’Brien said then he hoped Kim would follow through on denuclearization commitments he made at summits with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Ju Yong Chol, a counselor at North Korea’s mission to the U.N. in Geneva, said that over the past two years, his country had halted nuclear tests and test firing of inter-continental ballistic missiles “in order to build confidence with the United States”.

But the United States had responded by conducting dozens of joint military exercises with South Korea on the divided peninsula and by imposing sanctions, he said.

“As it became clear now that the U.S. remains unchanged in its ambition to block the development of the DPRK and stifle its political system, we found no reason to be unilaterally bound any longer by the commitment that the other party fails to honor,” Ju told the U.N.-backed Conference on Disarmament.

Speaking as the envoy from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea’s official name, Ju accused the United States of applying “the most brutal and inhumane sanctions”.

“If the U.S. persists in such hostile policy toward the DPRK there will never be the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” he said.

“If the United States tries to enforce unilateral demands and persists in imposing sanctions, North Korea may be compelled to seek a new path.”

U.S. military commanders said any new path could include the testing of a long-range missile, which North Korea has suspended since 2017, along with nuclear warhead tests.

“DO THE RIGHT THING”

U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood voiced concern at Pyongyang’s remarks and said Washington hoped the North would return to the negotiating table.

“What we hope is that they will do the right thing and come back to the table and try to work out an arrangement where by we can fulfill that pledge that was made by President Trump and Chairman Kim to denuclearize,” he said.

South Korean Ambassador Jang-keun Lee said there must be substantial progress in denuclearization to “maintain and build upon the hard-won momentum for dialogue”.

“Therefore, early resumption of negotiations between the United States and the DPRK is critical,” he said.

Vesna Batistic Kos, permanent representative of Croatia to the U.N. Office at Geneva speaking on behalf of the European Union, also called on North Korea to stick to the talks.

Pyongyang, slapped with multiple Security Council resolutions and sanctions, has rejected unilateral disarmament and given no indication that it is willing to go beyond statements of broad support for the concept of universal denuclearization.

North Korea has said in previous, failed talks that it could consider giving up its arsenal if the United States provided security guarantees by removing its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.

Impoverished North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

The North regularly used to threaten to destroy the South’s main ally, the United States, before rapprochement began after the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Jon Boyle and Nick Macfie)

North Korea’s leader promises ‘new strategic weapon,’ leaves room for talks

By Hyonhee Shin and Sangmi Cha

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s leader plans to further develop nuclear programs and to introduce a “new strategic weapon” in the near future, state media said on Wednesday, although he signaled there was still room for dialogue with the United States.

Kim Jong Un presided over a four-day meeting of top Workers’ Party officials this week amid rising tensions with the United States, which has not responded to his repeated calls for concessions to reopen negotiations. Washington has dismissed the deadline as artificial.

Kim said there were no grounds for North Korea to be bound any longer by a self-declared moratorium on testing nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), according to a statement on the results of the policy meeting carried by the official KCNA news agency.

At times smiling or striking the podium with his hand as he made remarks during the meeting, Kim accused the United States of making “gangster-like demands” and maintaining a “hostile policy”, such as by holding continued joint military drills with South Korea, adopting cutting edge weapons and imposing sanctions.

He pledged to continue bolstering his country’s nuclear deterrent but said the “scope and depth” of that deterrent will be “properly co-ordinated depending on” the attitude of the United States.

“The world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by the DPRK in the near future,” Kim said, using the initials for North Korea’s official name – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“We will reliably put on constant alert the powerful nuclear deterrent capable of containing the nuclear threats from the U.S. and guaranteeing our long-term security.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it would be “deeply disappointing” if Kim reneges on denuclearization commitments and Kim would hopefully “choose peace and prosperity over conflict and war.”

In his latest comments on Tuesday in the United States, President Donald Trump said he had a good relationship with Kim and thought the North Korean leader would keep his word.

“He likes me, I like him. We get along. He’s representing his country, I’m representing my country. We have to do what we have to do.

“But he did sign a contract, he did sign an agreement talking about denuclearization,” Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs said large-scale joint military drills with the United States had been halted and it would be unhelpful for negotiations if North Korea took action to introduce what it called a new strategic weapon.

There were no official reports as of early afternoon on Wednesday in South Korea that Kim had delivered an annual New Year’s address.

‘STRATEGIC WEAPONS’

Kim had previously said he might have to seek a “new path” if Washington failed to meet his expectations. U.S. military commanders said Pyongyang’s actions could include test firing an ICBM alongside nuclear warhead tests. North Korea last test fired an ICBM in 2017.

Jeffrey Lewis, a non-proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California, said it was difficult to predict North Korea’s next move. But it might involve firing a solid-fuel ICBM and an atmospheric nuclear test, he said.

However, Jeong Han-beom, who teaches security policy at Korea National Defense University in Seoul, said North Korea would not immediately stage such a provocative act as an ICBM or nuclear test because it could risk derailing negotiations.

Tension had been rising ahead of the year-end as North Korea conducted a series of weapons tests and waged a war of words with Trump.

The nuclear talks have made little headway despite three meetings between Kim and Trump since 2018. Working-level talks in Stockholm in October broke down, with a North Korean chief negotiator accusing U.S. officials of sticking to their old stance.

Kim said there will “never be denuclearization on the Korean peninsula” if Washington adheres to what he calls its hostile policy.

We “will steadily develop necessary and prerequisite strategic weapons for the security of the state until the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy towards the DPRK and lasting and durable peace-keeping mechanism is built,” Kim said.

He called for North Koreans to brace for an “arduous and prolonged struggle” and foster a self-reliant economy because of a delay in the anticipated lifting of sanctions.

“The present situation warning of long confrontation with the U.S. urgently requires us to make it a fait accompli that we have to live under the sanctions by the hostile forces in the future, too, and to strengthen the internal power from all aspects.”

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the party assembly results made clear Kim wants U.S. security guarantees before taking substantial action toward denuclearization.

“And he is suggesting that he will take the bull by the horns to achieve that goal, while promoting self reliance at home and still being open to talks depending on how Trump handles ‘hostile policy,'” Yang said.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Jack Kim and Sangmi Cha; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington and Jeff Mason in Palm Beach, Florida; Editing by Grant McCool and Neil Fullick)

North Korea’s Kim to unveil ‘new path’ in New Year speech after U.S. misses deadline

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is set to make a closely watched New Year address on Wednesday which is likely to offer a glimpse of a “new path” he has vowed to take if the United States fails to meet his deadline to soften its stance over denuclearization.

The New Year address is expected to touch upon a wide range of issues from foreign affairs and military development to the economy and education.

In his 2019 speech, Kim said he might have to change course if Washington sticks to its pressure campaign and demands unilateral action, while stressing a “self-reliant” economy, a drive he has launched amid tightening sanctions.

The United States was on track to ignore a year-end deadline set by Kim, which Washington has downplayed as artificial, to show more flexibility to reopen talks aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

The upcoming speech is expected to be the culmination of an ongoing meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s 7th Central Committee, a key policy-making body, which Kim convened on Saturday. It was still under way on Tuesday, state media said.

Discussions at the gathering remain largely unknown, but official media KCNA said on Tuesday that Kim spent seven hours during a Monday session discussing state, economic and military building. On Sunday, he called for “positive and offensive measures” to ensure the country’s security.

“The Central Committee plenary meeting is meant to legitimize the process behind the policy decisions Kim Jong-un will announce in his New Year speech,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“This meeting is to provide political justification for the economic and security policies Pyongyang will pursue in 2020.”

North Korea has provided few hints for what the “new path” may involve, but U.S. military commanders said Pyongyang next move could include the testing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which it has halted since 2017, alongside nuclear bomb tests.

U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien warned Washington would be “extraordinarily disappointed” if North Korea tests a long-range or nuclear missile, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped it would choose peace over confrontation.

“We still maintain our view that we can find a path forward to convince the leadership in North Korea that their best course of action is to create a better opportunity for their people by getting rid of their nuclear weapons. That’s our mission set,” Pompeo told Fox News on Monday.

The U.S. Air Force flew an RC-135 surveillance plane over South Korea on Monday and Tuesday, according to military flight tracker Aircraft Spots.

Despite mounting speculation over a potential military provocation, any restart of an ICBM test would risk a personal relationship with Trump, which Pyongyang has repeatedly touted while denouncing Pompeo and other aides, analysts say.

Cho Tae-yong, a former South Korean deputy national security advisor, said Kim had few options that can leave the Trump ties intact.

“In any case, North Korea would add a lot of caveats before and after testing to make sure they’re not intent on destroying the negotiating table and it was the Americans who betrayed them,” Cho told Reuters.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Michael Perry)

North Korea’s Kim urges ‘positive and offensive’ security measures ahead of nuclear talks deadline

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for “positive and offensive measures” to ensure the country’s security before a year-end deadline he has set for denuclearization talks with the United States, state media KCNA said on Monday.

Kim convened a weekend meeting of top Workers’ Party officials to discuss policy matters amid rising tension over his deadline for Washington to soften its stance in stalled negotiations aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

At a Sunday session, Kim suggested action in the areas of foreign affairs, the munitions industry and armed forces, stressing the need to take “positive and offensive measures for fully ensuring the sovereignty and security of the country,” KCNA said, without elaborating.

The meeting was the largest plenary session of the party’s 7th Central Committee since its first gathering in 2013 under Kim, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry handling inter-Korean affairs.

The key policymaking organ drew several hundred attendees, state television showed on Monday. The committee also met in 2018 and in April but on a much smaller scale.

“By ‘positive and offensive measures,’ they might mean highly provocative action against the United States and also South Korea,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean studies in Seoul.

KCNA said the meeting was still under way. It was the first time the gathering had lasted more than one day since Kim took power in late 2011, ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min told a regular briefing.

The United States was watching the end-of-year meeting closely and hoped North Korea would choose peace over confrontation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday.

“We still maintain our view that we can find a path forward to convince the leadership in North Korea that their best course of action is to create a better opportunity for their people by getting rid of their nuclear weapons,” Pompeo told Fox News.

North Korea has urged Washington to offer a new approach to resume negotiations, warning that it may take an unspecified “new path” if the United States fails to meet its expectations.

U.S. military commanders said the move could include the testing of a long-range missile, which North Korea has suspended since 2017, along with nuclear warhead tests.

Washington would be “extraordinarily disappointed” if North Korea tests a long-range or nuclear missile, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said on Sunday, vowing to take appropriate action as a leading military and economic power.

The United States had opened channels of communication with North Korea and hoped Kim would follow through on denuclearization commitments he made at summits with U.S. President Donald Trump, O’Brien said.

A video released by the U.S. Air Force and reviewed by Reuters on Monday showed a simulation of an Aegis destroyer spotting what appeared to be a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile being fired toward the Pacific over the skies of Japan, prompting the launch of ground interceptor missiles.

The 65-second clip was dated September and released on Dec. 2 on the website of the U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

A South Korean military source said while it was largely a regular promotional video, its release coincided with heightened tensions amid a recent series of North Korean weapons tests and a war of words between Pyongyang and Washington.

‘INDEPENDENT ECONOMY’

North Korea’s economy seemed to be another key item on the agenda for the second-day session, Yang said, with the economy hit by international sanctions over its weapons programs.

KCNA said Kim discussed state management and economic issues in line with his campaign to build an “independent economy.”

Kim “presented the tasks for urgently correcting the grave situation of the major industrial sectors of the national economy,” KCNA said.

In New York, U.N. Security Council members were scheduled to hold an informal meeting on Monday to contemplate a Russian and Chinese proposal to ease sanctions on North Korea.

Russia and China proposed a draft U.N. Security Council resolution this month that would lift some sanctions in a bid to kick-start the denuclearization talks.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the proposal was aimed at promoting the talks process and to “satisfy reasonable humanitarian and livelihood requirements” from North Korea.

“China hopes that when it comes to the peninsula issue, Security Council members can assume their responsibilities and take proactive steps to support a political resolution,” he told a daily news briefing.

The move is seen as an attempt to create a crack in a U.S.-led global campaign to pressure North Korea to give up its weapons programs amid lackluster progress in the negotiations.

Sanctions on industries that earned North Korea hundreds of millions of dollars a year were imposed in 2016 and 2017 to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s weapons programs.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Daewoung Kim, Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Michael Perry and Nick Macfie)

Explainer: Why have North Korea-U.S. denuclearization talks stalled?

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – Negotiations aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have been at a standstill after a working-level meeting with the United States in October in Stockholm collapsed.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has set a year-end deadline for Washington to change its stance in the negotiations, a deadline U.S. officials have downplayed as artificial.

North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, meanwhile, says denuclearization is now off the table.

Here are the competing demands that lead to the deadlock:

HOSTILE POLICY

A North Korean envoy accused U.S. officials of sticking to their “old viewpoint and attitude” when he broke off the Stockholm talks.

Little was known about what North Korea and the United States specifically sought and offered during that meeting.

But Pyongyang has been demanding U.S. corresponding action to its proposed dismantling of a nuclear testing venue, including the lifting of crippling sanctions.

North Korea offered to abolish its Yongbyon nuclear complex in return for the revocation of key five U.N. resolutions during a failed summit between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in February in Vietnam.

But the Americans argued decommissioning Yongbyon did not suffice, calling for Pyongyang to transfer nuclear weapons and bomb fuel to the United States.

North Korea had also said it dismantled its Sohae missile launch site as an initial step toward denuclearization, but the facility was used on Sunday for what Pyongyang said was a “very significant test”.

North Korea has stepped up calls for the United States to an end to joint military drills with South Korea, as well as retracting its “hostile policy” including criticizing Pyongyang’s human rights record.

‘COMPLETE, VERIFIABLE, IRREVERSIBLE’

U.S. officials came to Stockholm seeking a “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” of North Korea, and pushed for a moratorium on weapons tests as a first step, a diplomatic source in Seoul told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Although some media reports said the United States had planned to propose temporarily lifting sanctions on coal and textile exports, the source said the Stockholm talks did not get into details.

Washington and Seoul have contemplated possible areas where sanctions be eased on the conditions they can be immediately put back if needed, such as a resumption of South Korean tours to the North.

North Korea, in contrast, has sought a “systematic guarantee” for the lifting of sanctions, singling out five U.N. resolutions at the Hanoi summit, the source said.

The five U.N. resolutions, adopted in 2016 and 2017, chiefly limited North Korea’s mineral exports and banned financial transactions, which were expected to prevent Pyongyang from earning at least $1 billion a year.

“But the Americans can’t take the risk of easing sanctions first, having already given a lot of gifts to Kim without substantial progress on denuclearization, including summits,” the source said.

“Sanctions are basically all they have to press North Korea.”

U.S. negotiators tried to fix a date for the next round of talks when the Stockholm meeting fell apart, but North Korean officials were uncooperative, the source said.

DEADLINE

As the year-end deadline approaches, North Korea has ratcheted up tensions, firing dozens of missiles and warning Kim might take a different path if diplomacy with the United States fails.

Kim was “displeased” at Trump’s remarks Tuesday he could use military force against North Korea “if we have to”, a top North Korean commander said on Wednesday, warning of “prompt corresponding actions”.

Trump’s re-election battle and the impeachment inquiry against him may have emboldened Kim to overestimate North Korea’s leverage, the diplomatic source said.

Recent weapons tests raised concerns North Korea could resume nuclear and long-range missile testing suspended since 2017. Analysts described last month’s launch of shorter range weapons as a Thanksgiving reminder for Trump.

“North Korea is pushing the envelope little by little with the tests, and the Americans are saying if those tests were not a big deal, but they’re not OK,” the source said.

“If there’s no progress until year-end, North Korea would have to do something, maybe an intercontinental ballistic missile test. Then the United States has no option but to respond even more sternly, and in a worst-case scenario, the negotiations could break down for good.”

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

North Korea revives ‘dotard’ label in warning to Trump over ‘Rocket Man’ remarks

North Korea revives ‘dotard’ label in warning to Trump over ‘Rocket Man’ remarks
By Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments on military force and the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, would represent “a very dangerous challenge” if they were intended to provoke Pyongyang, a top North Korean diplomat said on Thursday.

Trump’s comments threaten to return the two countries to the tensions of two years ago, Choe Son Hui, first vice-minister of Foreign Affairs for North Korea, said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA.

In 2017 the two leaders famously engaged in a war of words, with Trump calling Kim “Rocket Man” and North Korea slamming the U.S. president, now 73, as a “dotard”.

Since then Trump and Kim have met three times, but negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile arsenal have stalled amid disagreements and rising tensions.

This year saw a number of short-range ballistic missile launches by North Korea, and Kim has warned that the United States has until the end of the year to change its stance or he could take an unspecified “new path.”

On Tuesday Trump once again called Kim “Rocket Man” and said the United States reserved the right to use military force against North Korea.

“If this is meant to make expressions, reminiscent of those days just two years ago when a war of words was fought across the ocean, surface again on purpose, it will be a very dangerous challenge,” Choe said, arguing that the comments aroused concern and undermined the dignity of North Korea’s leader.

The lack of courtesy shown to Kim had “prompted the waves of hatred of our people against the U.S. and the Americans and they are getting higher and higher”, Choe said.

“It would be fortunate” if Trump’s remarks were simply “an instantaneous verbal lapse, but the matter becomes different if they were a planned provocation that deliberately targeted us”, she said.

North Korea would watch closely to see if Trump repeated the comments, Choe said.

“If any language and expressions stoking the atmosphere of confrontation are used once again on purpose at a crucial moment as now, that must really be diagnosed as the relapse of the dotage of a dotard,” she concluded.

Trump said on Tuesday he still had confidence in the North Korean leader but noted that Kim “likes sending rockets up”.

“…That’s why I call him Rocket Man,” Trump told reporters at a NATO meeting in London.

Trump added that Washington could use military force. “If we have to, we’ll do it.”

On Wednesday, North Korea’s army chief said he was disappointed by Trump’s suggestion of using military force against Pyongyang, and warned that any strike would meet “prompt corresponding actions”.

(Reporting by Josh Smith, Ju-min Park and Jack Kim; Editing by Giles Elgood)

North Korea’s Kim celebrates completion of ‘modern mountainous city

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has celebrated the completion of leader Kim Jong Un’s signature construction project, a new city near the sacred mountain where his family claims its roots, with state media on Tuesday calling it the “epitome of modern civilisation”.

A massive celebration involving fireworks was held at the city near Mount Paektu on Monday, the official KCNA news agency said.

The Rodong Sinmun, a ruling party mouthpiece, ran photos of Kim smiling as he cut a ribbon at the ceremony attended by thousands of people, while state television showed beige, green and purple buildings covered in snow.

The city named Samjiyon is envisaged as what North Korea calls a “socialist utopia” with new apartments, hotels, a ski resort and commercial, cultural and medical facilities.

The town “has turned into an example of a mountainous modern city under socialism, an epitome of modern civilization,” KCNA said.

KCNA said it could accommodate 4,000 families and has 380 blocks of public and industrial buildings in “hundreds of hectares”.

The city is one of the largest economic initiatives Kim has launched as part of his drive for a “self-reliant economy, as Pyongyang calls for Washington to lift economic sanctions in their denuclearization talks.

But its construction was delayed chiefly due to shortages in construction materials and labor as a result of sanctions imposed to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

The delays prompted Pyongyang to mobilize youth labor brigades, which defectors and human rights activists likened to “slave labor” as they get no pay, poor food and are forced to work more than 12 hours a day for up to 10 years in return for better chances to enter a university or join the all powerful Workers’ Party.

State media has also reported over the past year on factories, families and individuals who sent winter jackets, tools, shoes, blankets and biscuits to Samjiyon, which the defectors said was part of the cash-strapped regime’s campaign to source supplies from the public.

The project was completed despite “the worst trials” and “ordeals and difficulties,” KCNA said, without elaborating.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Michael Perry)

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un supervises air drills while U.S. and South Korea postpone drills: KCNA

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean media reported on Monday that leader Kim Jong Un supervised air force drills for the second time in three days, even as the United States and South Korea decided to postpone their joint air drills to ease denuclearisation talks with North Korea.

The U.S. and South Korea said on Sunday they would postpone upcoming military drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea. Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.

The drills, already planned to be scaled back from previous years, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea to test readiness.

On Monday, North Korean state news agency KCNA said Kim supervised an airborne landing training of sharpshooter sub-units of the Air and Anti-Aircraft Force of the North Korean army.

Kim “said that it is necessary to wage a drill without notice under the simulated conditions of real war” for “improving the preparedness” of North Korean military units, KCNA said.

On Saturday, KCNA had reported that Kim watched a “combat flight contest” of the flight commanding officers of the Air and Anti-Aircraft Force. A photo in state newspaper Rodong Sinmun showed him smiling amid pilots gathered around him.

It was unclear when Kim oversaw these events, or whether it was on the same day. There were no mention of U.S. or South Korea in the KCNA reports.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told Kim, “You should act quickly, get the deal done” with the United States, and signed off “See you soon!” on Twitter.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Tom Brown)

North Korea slams door on Japan PM Abe visit, calls him an ‘idiot’

North Korea slams door on Japan PM Abe visit, calls him an ‘idiot’
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea on Thursday called Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe an “idiot and villain” who should not even dream of setting foot in Pyongyang, in a media commentary laden with insults in response to his criticism of a North Korean weapons test.

North Korea tested what it called “super-large multiple rocket launchers” on Oct. 31, but Japan said they were likely ballistic missiles that violated U.N. sanctions.

Abe condemned the test at an Asian summit this week, while saying he was eager to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “without conditions” to resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by the isolated state, Kyodo news agency reported citing the Japanese government.

“Abe is an idiot and villain as he is making a fuss as if a nuclear bomb was dropped on the land of Japan, taking issue with the DPRK’s test-fire of super-large multiple rocket launchers,” the North’s KCNA state news agency said, citing a statement by Song Il Ho, its ambassador for ties with Japan.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name.

“Abe would be well-advised not to dream forever of crossing the threshold of Pyongyang as he hurled a torrent of abuse at the just measures of the DPRK for self-defense.”

The commentary signals a setback for Abe’s hope of resolving the issue of the abducted Japanese citizens. He has vowed to bring all of them and has said he was willing to meet Kim without conditions.

In 2002, North Korea admitted that its agents had kidnapped 13 Japanese from the 1960s to the 1980s. Japan says 17 of its citizens were abducted, five of whom were repatriated.

North Korea has said eight of them were dead and another four never entered the country.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang in 2002 and met the father of the current North Korean leader but Abe has never met Kim.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Robert Birsel)

North Korea criticizes ‘hostile policy’ as U.S. diplomat visits South Korea

North Korea criticizes ‘hostile policy’ as U.S. diplomat visits South Korea
SEOUL (Reuters) – A U.S. report calling North Korea a sponsor of terrorism shows a “hostile policy” that prevents progress in denuclearization talks, the isolated nation said on Tuesday, as a senior U.S. diplomat was set to arrive in the neighboring South.

North Korea accused the United States of failing to show flexibility after a breakdown last month in the first talks between their officials since President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed in June to reopen negotiations.

“The channel of dialogue between the DPRK and the U.S. is more and more narrowing due to such attitude,” North Korean state news agency KCNA said, citing a Foreign Ministry official, and using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

It said a U.S. State Department report on terrorism “proves once again” that U.S. rejection of North Korea indicated “a hostile policy”.

The agency was referring to “Country Reports on Terrorism 2018”, issued last week, which reaffirmed North Korea’s re-designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Tuesday’s statement came ahead of a visit to Seoul by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell, who is expected to discuss the stalled talks with North Korea, as well as the South’s decision to end an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.

“I look forward to productive meetings with your government so we can reaffirm the security alliance as the cornerstone of the peace and security here in the region,” Stilwell told reporters late on Tuesday upon arrival at Incheon airport.

U.S. officials did not describe Stilwell’s agenda in detail, but said he would discuss the strength of the U.S.-South Korea alliance and cooperation across foreign policies.

Washington has urged South Korea to rethink a decision to end an intelligence-sharing agreement scrapped in an escalating political and economic dispute with Japan.

On Tuesday, Kim In-chul, a spokesman for South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, said there was no change in its stance not to renew the intelligence-sharing pact, however.

The top U.S. negotiator in defense cost-sharing talks with South Korea, James DeHart, was also set to arrive in Seoul on Tuesday, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said.

In April, North Korean leader Kim said the country would give Washington until the end of the year to be “more flexible” in denuclearization talks, but state media have since given only vague warnings about what will happen if the deadline expires.

The United States and North Korea could hold another round of working-level talks as soon as mid-November, South Korean lawmaker Lee Eun-jae said on Monday after a briefing by Seoul’s National Intelligence Service.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; additional reporting by Daewoung Kim and Chaeyoun Won; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Clarence Fernandez and Alison Williams)