North Korea on Friday said it was abandoning attempts to pursue a diplomatic relationship with the White House because two years after a historic handshake between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un “even a slim ray of optimism” for peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula had “faded away into a dark nightmare.”
The statement by North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon, published on state media, represented the clearest indication yet that Pyongyang appears to have all but given up on improving ties with the Trump administration and working toward “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The phrase formed the basis of a vaguely worded accord between Trump and Kim Jong Un when the two leaders shook hands during a carefully choreographed summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.
Trump broke with diplomatic norms and protocol when he became the first sitting American president to hold a face-to-face meeting with a leader of North Korea. A year later, he made another unconventional move by diplomatic standards by briefly stepping on to North Korean soil as he met with North Korea’s dictator at the Demilitarized Zone, the heavily fortified and guarded border area that separates the two Koreas. A third meeting, in Vietnam, ended in stalemate after Kim insisted that all the sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Pyongyang be lifted before North Korea committed to eliminate its nuclear arsenal.
Since then, there has been little active public dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang. However, North Korea’s statement Friday appeared to indicate that relations between the two administrations had deteriorated beyond repair.
“Never again will we provide the U.S. chief executive with another package to be used for achievements without receiving any returns,” Ri said, referring to Trump.
“Nothing is more hypocritical than an empty promise.”
There was no immediate reaction from the White House or the U.S. State Department to North Korea’s comments. Ri said North Korea would continue to build up its military forces, including its nuclear program, to counter what it sees as U.S. threats.
“The U.S. professes to be an advocate for improved relations. But in fact, it is hell-bent on only exacerbating the situation,” he added.
In recent days, North Korea has also stepped up its angry rhetoric at South Korea, saying it was severing all communications with its neighbor because it had failed to stop anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets emanating from the South from reaching its territory.
Despite the diplomatic energy Trump poured into North Korea, the country has continued to test long-range ballistic missiles. When Trump signed the agreement with Kim in 2018, political scientists warned that the accord fell short of previous international accords and lacked a concrete roadmap for North Korea’s denuclearization.
Speculation that Kim may have died from the coronavirus or from botched heart surgery reached a fever-pitch earlier this year after he disappeared from public view for several weeks. He suddenly reappeared on May 2 at the opening of a fertilizer plant.
“I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!” Trump tweeted after Kim resurfaced, the last time he appears to have spoken publicly about his North Korean counterpart. While Trump has continued to refer to Kim as a friend he has had relatively little to say about his administration’s stalled nuclear diplomacy with North Korea.