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Kim Sister Derides US Official         06/22 06:15

   

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim 
Jong Un dismissed prospects for an early resumption of diplomacy with the 
United States, saying Tuesday that U.S. expectations of talks would "plunge 
them into a greater disappointment."

   Kim Yo Jong's blunt statement indicates that the diplomatic impasse over 
North Korea's nuclear program is likely to continue unless the North suffers 
greater pandemic-related economic difficulties and needs urgent outside 
assistance, some experts said.

   Hope for a restart of nuclear talks flared briefly after Kim Jong Un said 
last week that his country must be ready for both dialogue and confrontation, 
though more for confrontation. U.S. National Security adviser Jake Sullivan 
called Kim's comments an "interesting signal."

   On Tuesday, Kim Yo Jong derided Sullivan's response.

   "It seems that the U.S. may interpret the situation in such a way as to seek 
a comfort for itself," the official Korean Central News Agency quoted her as 
saying. "The expectation, which they chose to harbor the wrong way, would 
plunge them into a greater disappointment."

   Shin Beomchul, an analyst with the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for 
National Strategy, said North Korea has been communicating the same message for 
months -- that it has no intention to return to talks unless the United States 
offers meaningful concessions, likely in the form of eased economic sanctions. 
The Biden administration, for its part, doesn't want to budge either, he said.

   "Both parties are locked in a waiting game -- North Korea wants the United 
States to make concessions first, and the United States has no intentions to 
match a level of action the North is demanding," Shin said.

   On Monday, during a visit to Seoul, Sung Kim, the top U.S. envoy on North 
Korea affairs, said Washington is willing to meet the North "anywhere, anytime 
without preconditions." But he stressed that the Biden administration would 
continue to pressure North Korea with sanctions over its nuclear and missile 
ambitions.

   Just before Kim Yo Jong's statement was released on Tuesday, Sung Kim met 
South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young and said Washington and Seoul 
remain committed to seeking the complete denuclearization of the Korean 
Peninsula through diplomacy. Lee said he hoped North Korea would return to the 
negotiating table at an early date and called the current situation "a very 
good chance" to resume talks.

   Sung Kim later met South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and the two said they 
would strive to resume U.S.-North Korea talks, Moon's office said. The South 
Korean government didn't immediately comment on Kim Yo Jong's statement.

   As a precondition for the talks' resumption, North Korea has repeatedly 
called on the United States to lift its "hostile policy" toward it, an apparent 
reference to the U.S.-led sanctions and regular military drills with South 
Korea. But experts say the Biden administration won't ease sanctions or make 
other major concessions before North Korea takes concrete steps toward 
denuclearization.

   North Korea may only ease its stance if it can no longer endure its ongoing 
economic hardship, some experts said. Kim Jong Un has admitted North Korea 
faces what he described as its "worst-ever" crises, due to drastically reduced 
international trade caused by pandemic-related border closings, mismanagement, 
the economic sanctions and crop-killing storms last year.

   The deadlock "could be prolonged unless there's a change in the conditions 
facing the North, such as greater economic or pandemic-related difficulties," 
Shin said.

   Analyst Cheong Seong-Chang at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea 
said Kim Yo Jong's statement suggested North Korea isn't ready to rejoin talks 
anytime soon.

   "A mutual distrust and antagonism run so deep that the resumption of the 
North Korea-U.S. talks is difficult. Even if the U.S. and North Korea meet, 
it'll never be easy to find common ground," Cheong said.

   Last Thursday, Kim Jong Un ordered officials to prepare for both dialogue 
and confrontation, "especially to get fully prepared for confrontation," in 
order to protect national security and dignity.

   In an interview with ABC News, Sullivan said Sunday that "His comments this 
week we regard as an interesting signal. And we will wait to see whether they 
are followed up with any kind of more direct communication to us about a 
potential path forward."

   U.S. officials have suggested Biden will take the middle ground between 
former President Donald Trump's direct dealings with Kim and ex-President 
Barack Obama's policy of "strategic patience." Details of Biden's North Korea 
policy haven't been publicly released.

   U.S.-led diplomacy aimed at striping North Korea of its nuclear program has 
stalled since February 2019, when the Americans rejected a North Korean demand 
for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear 
capabilities during a summit between Kim and Trump.

 
 
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