North Korea said on Thursday that it no longer wanted to deal with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and said he should be replaced in talks by someone “more mature”, hours after it announced its first weapons test since nuclear talks broke down. The North’s official KCNA news agency quoted senior Foreign Ministry official Kwon Jong-gun as warning that no one could predict the situation on the Korean peninsula if the U.S. did not abandon the “root cause” that compelled North Korea to develop nuclear weapons.
The statement came shortly after North Korea announced that leader Kim Jong-un had overseen the testing of a new tactical guided weapon, which KCNA said has a “peculiar mode of guiding flight” and “a powerful warhead”. It was the North’s first weapon test since talks in Vietnam between Mr. Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in late February broke down over conflicting demands by North Korea for sanctions relief and by the United States for North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme.
KCNA gave no details on the weapon that was tested on Wednesday but “tactical” implied a short-range weapon rather than the long-range ballistic missiles that have been seen as a threat to the United States.
KCNA quoted Mr. Kwon, who is in charge of U.S. affairs, as saying the Vietnam summit showed that talks could go wrong “whenever Pompeo pokes his nose in”. “I am afraid that, if Pompeo engages in the talks again, the table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled,” Mr. Kwon said. “Therefore, even in the case of possible resumption of the dialogue with the United States, I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo but other person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.” A spokeswoman for the State Department said it was aware of the report about Mr. Pompeo and added: “The United States remains ready to engage North Korea in a constructive negotiation.”