Trump greet not enough for NKorea talks

KIM TONG-HYUNG
US President Donald Trump (L) had sent birthday greetings to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un

A North Korean official says the US and South Korea are dreaming if they think President Donald Trump's sending a birthday message would get leader Kim Jong-un back to the negotiating table.

North Korean Foreign Ministry adviser Kim Kye Gwan repeated the North's deep frustrations over stalled nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration and stressed that the country will never fully deal away its nuclear capabilities for ending US-led sanctions despite its economic difficulties.

He was responding to comments by South Korean national security director Chung Eui-yong who, after returning from a visit to the US on Friday, said that Seoul had conveyed Trump's birthday greetings to Kim.

His birthday is believed to be January 8.

Chung had said that Trump, during their meeting at the White House, asked Seoul to deliver the message to Pyongyang, which it did through "proper means" on Thursday.

But Kim Kye Gwan said that the North had already received a similar letter by Trump directly from the Americans, and ridiculed Seoul for clinging to its role as a mediator between Washington and Pyongyang.

"They seem not to know that there is a special liaison channel between the top leaders of the DPRK and the US," Kim Kye Gwan said, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

He also said it was "presumptuous" for South Korea to meddle in the personal relationship between the North Korean and US leaders.

"Although Chairman Kim Jong-un has good personal feelings about President Trump, they are, in the true sense of the word, 'personal'," he said.

"The Chairman of the State Affairs Commission would not discuss the state affairs on the basis of such personal feelings, as he represents our state and its interests."

The North Korean leader last week opened the new year expressing deep frustrations over the stalled negotiations and vowed to bolster his nuclear arsenal as a deterrent against "gangster-like" US sanctions and pressure.

The North in past months has severed virtually all cooperation with the South, while demanding Seoul to break away from Washington and restart inter-Korean economic projects held back by US-led sanctions.

Negotiations between US and North Korea have faltered since the collapse of the second Kim-Trump meeting in February last year in Hanoi.

The US side rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for the dismantlement of an ageing nuclear facility in Yongbyon, which would only represent a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

In his statement, Kim Kye Gwan said that the North will never again engage in negotiations to fully give away a crucial nuclear facility in exchange for sanctions relief as it did in Vietnam.

"We have been deceived by the US, being caught in the dialogue with it for over one year and a half, and that was the lost time for us," he said, criticising what he described as "unilateral" US demands.