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North Korea Rejects Talks              07/07 06:46


   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea on Tuesday said it has no immediate 
intent to resume a dialogue with the United States as U.S. Deputy Secretary of 
State Stephen Biegun arrived in South Korea for discussions on stalled nuclear 

   In a statement released through the North's official Korean Central News 
Agency, senior North Korean foreign ministry official Kwon Jong Gun also 
ridiculed "nonsensical" calls by South Korea for revived negotiations between 
the U.S. and North Korea, saying it has lost its relevance as a mediator.

   The State Department said Biegun, who is also President Donald Trump's 
special representative for North Korea, will discuss cooperation on a range of 
issues in meetings this week with officials in South Korea and Japan, including 
the "final, fully verified denuclearization" of North Korea.

   Kwon's statement came hours before Biegun arrived at a U.S. air base near 
Seoul. The U.S. Embassy said Biegun, members of his delegation and the military 
air crew were being tested for COVID-19 at the base and would proceed to Seoul 
after confirmation that all had negative test results.

   Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have met three times since 
embarking on high-stakes nuclear diplomacy in 2018. But negotiations have 
faltered since their second summit in February last year in Vietnam, where the 
Americans rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange 
for a partial surrender of its nuclear capability.

   Amid the stalemate in talks, North Korea has repeatedly said in recent 
months that it would no longer give Trump the gift of high-profile meetings he 
could boast of as foreign policy achievements unless it gets something 
substantial in return.

   North Korea has also been dialing up pressure on the South, cutting off 
virtually all cooperation and blowing up an inter-Korean liaison office in its 
territory last month, following months of frustration over Seoul's 
unwillingness to defy U.S.-led sanctions and restart joint economic projects 
that would help the North's broken economy.

   "Explicitly speaking once again, we have no intention to sit face-to-face 
with U.S.," Kwon said in the statement.

   Some analysts believe North Korea will avoid serious talks with the 
Americans for now and instead focus on pressuring the South in a bid to 
increase its bargaining power before an eventual return to negotiations after 
the U.S. presidential election in November. They say North Korea likely doesn't 
want to make any major commitments or concessions when there is a chance U.S. 
leadership could change.

   But Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the 
prospects of a fourth Trump-Kim meeting shouldn't be ruled out.

   "Normally a U.S. president wouldn't take such a gambit ahead of an election, 
but down in the polls, Trump has incentive to go ever further off script," he 

   Kim may also see a closing window of opportunity if Trump is expected to 
leave office and could possibly attempt to exchange reversible denuclearization 
steps for sanctions relief and South Korean investment, Easley said.

   Kwon's statement came days after North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister 
Choe Sun Hui, whom Biegun has described as his potential counterpart when talks 
resume, insisted the North won't resume negotiations unless Washington discards 
what it describes as "hostile" policies. She criticized the Trump 
administration for considering diplomacy with the North as "nothing more than a 
tool for grappling its political crisis."

   Without naming him outright, Kwon also took a jab at Moon, who in a video 
conference with European leaders last week expressed hope that Trump and Kim 
would meet again before the U.S. elections.

   "(Choe's) statement also mentioned the meddlesome man who had again 
indicated his intention to arbitrate between the DPRK and the U.S.," Kwon said, 
referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People's Republic 
of Korea.

   "We feel sorry to see (the South) trying so hard to become the ?mediator' 
but it may try as much as it wants if it cherishes so strong wish to try it to 
the end. Time will show whether its efforts will succeed or it will only suffer 
a loss and ridicule."

   Biegun is to meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and 
other South Korean officials on Wednesday before leaving for Japan on Thursday, 
Kang's ministry said.

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