North Korea calls Pompeo ‘diehard toxin,’ says ready for dialogue or standoff with U.S.

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SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s top diplomat said on Friday that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was a “diehard toxin” who only complicates denuclearisation talks and that Pyongyang was ready for both dialogue and standoff.

Talks aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes have stalled since a failed second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi in February.

Trump and Kim met again in June at the inter-Korean border and agreed to reopen working-level negotiations, but that has not happened as yet.

Since the summit Pyongyang has demanded Pompeo be replaced with a “more mature” person, while lauding the rapport built between the two leaders.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, who took part in the Hanoi summit along with Pompeo, called the chief U.S. negotiator the “diehard toxin of the U.S. diplomacy” that employs “hackneyed sanctions rhetoric”.

Ri referred to Pompeo’s remarks in recent press interviews that sanctions will be kept until North Korea takes concrete actions on denuclearisation.

“He is truly impudent enough to utter such thoughtless words which only leave us disappointed and sceptical as to whether we can solve any problem with such a guy,” Ri said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

Ri also accused Pompeo of casting “dark shadows” over the talks and being more interested in his own political ambitions than in U.S. foreign policy.

“If the U.S. still dreams a pipe dream of gaining everything through sanctions, we are left with two options, either to leave it enjoying the dream to its heart’s content or to wake it up from the dream,” Ri said.

“We are ready for both dialogue and standoff.”

U.S. envoy Stephen Biegun, who leads working-level talks with North Korea, was in Seoul this week to discuss ways to expedite a restart of negotiations.

Denuclearisation talks were expected to be reopened soon, South Korea’s deputy national security adviser Kim Hyun-chong said on Tuesday, giving his upbeat assessment after meeting Biegun.

North Korea has fired a series of short-range missiles in recent weeks in protest to U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises and the adoption of new weapons, complicating the reopening of the talks.

Reporting by Joyce Lee, Ju-min Park and Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Paul Tait, Simon Cameron-Moore and Michael PerryOur Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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