North Korea’s Foreign Ministry Roving Ambassador Kim Myong Gil said on Monday that it is up to the United States to have further negotiations and last weekend’s talks were sickening when he arrived at Beijing International Airport on his way back to Pyongyang with his negotiating team following the working-level talks with Washington. Kim went on to say in a threatening tone that no one will be sure what kind of a horrible situation unfolds later unless Washington gets properly ready. He intended to say that it was Washington to blame for a rupture in the working-level negotiations in Stockholm, Sweden, while implicitly threatening to resume nuclear testing and launch ICBMs.
We should wait and see if North Korea refuses to continue with negotiations or behaves strategically to get a bigger deal done. However, there is no news at all that North Korea brings the other side to the brink of the cliff as part of its negotiating strategy. It has demanded that the United States should first take a step to “complete and irreversible withdrawal of hostile policy” toward Pyongyang. After insisting on “security guarantees” on the previous day, it argued that security guarantees are the prerequisite for denuclearization, which has been demanded by Washington as a precondition.
It seems that North Korea collapsed the talks in Stockholm in retaliation for the failure in the Hanoi summit on Feb. 28 where U.S. President Donald Trump gained the upper hand with a list of items to be removed by Pyongyang on the negotiating table. Likewise, Pyongyang got a hint of what Washington’s “creative ideas” and flexible reaction will be like while intending to acquire what it wants first with a stronger approach as if it demanded an advance while pushing the other side to pay its debt. Obviously, it tells that North Korea attempts to lead the United States to skip fruitless working-level negotiations to jump directly to a summit meeting.
It is likely that Pyongyang will maintain a firm stance while refusing to have further working-level negotiations for some time. Even if it comes to the negotiating table, it will only push for a next summit meeting. This is partly attributable to President Trump, who has turned a blind eye to a series of North Korean missile launches, leading Pyongyang to run amok. Added to this, the U.S. president has made the same mistake to allow a working-level negotiation to be automatically followed by a summit meeting. It is time for Washington to make it clear that an agreement at the working level is a precondition to any summit meeting. Otherwise, working-level talks will necessarily end up with nothing with no exception.