North Korea calls for Pompeo to be
dropped from talks; tests tactical weapon
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[April 18, 2019]
By Joyce Lee and Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said on
Thursday 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
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 United States 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
It was the North's first weapon test since talks in Vietnam between 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 program.
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 Kwon, who is in charge of U.S. affairs, as saying the
Vietnam summit, the second between the two leaders, 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," 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
While Kwon did not elaborate on why North Korea felt compelled to
develop nuclear weapons, it has long spoken of the need to defend itself
from what it sees as U.S. aggression.
Kim said last week said the breakdown in talks risked reviving tensions
and he gave a year-end deadline for the United States to change its
Despite the failure of the Vietnam summit, Trump has stressed his good
relationship with Kim.
Kwon also said the two leaders were on good terms, even as he castigated
Pompeo for "fabricated" stories as part of a "publicity stunt". He did
Kwon said Pompeo had made "reckless remarks hurting the dignity of our
supreme leadership", apparently referring to him agreeing to the
characterization of Kim as a "tyrant" at a U.S. Congressional hearing
U.S. government officials were not immediately available for comment on
the call to replace Pompeo.
Earlier, Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University's
Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said the newly tested weapon
was likely a short-range cruise missile that could be launched from the
ground, sea and air.
[to top of second column]
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives guidance while attending a
flight training of Korean People's Army Air Force at undisclosed
location in this April 16, 2019 photo released on April 17, 2019 by
North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA via REUTERS
Kim oversaw the test of an unidentified tactical weapon in November.
Experts said in November Kim wanted to shift the mainstay of the
North's conventional military power from a nearly 1.3 million-strong
army to high-tech weapons.
The young leader said last April that he would stop nuclear tests
and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles because the
nuclear capabilities of North Korea, which has tested nuclear
devices six times, had been verified.
"This does serve as a useful reminder of one critical fact: Chairman
Kim Jong Un never promised to stop testing all weapons in his
military arsenal, just nuclear weapons and ICBMs that have the
potential to hit the U.S. homeland," said Harry Kazianis of the
Washington-based Center for the National Interest.
A U.S. official said that, according initial information, U.S.
forces did not detect a missile launch from North Korea. Checks were
underway, said the official.
Referring to the test, a White House official said: "We are aware of
the report and have no further comment."
South Korea's presidential Blue House declined to comment on the
test, referring questions to the defense ministry. It said it was
analyzing the nature of the weapon and North Korea's intentions.
Kim's visit to the testing site came after he visited the North
Korean Air and Anti-aircraft Force on Tuesday, according to KCNA.
Kyungnam University's Kim Dong-yub said the latest test appeared to
partly be a message to the United States that North Korea would not
bow to sanctions.
"It's also an internal message to the North Korean people and to the
military" to instill trust in their own security by reinforcing
conventional weapons, he said.
Satellite images from last week showed movement at Yongbyon, North
Korea's main nuclear site, that could be associated with the
reprocessing of radioactive material into bomb fuel, the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in the United States said on
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said in a Bloomberg News
interview on Wednesday the United States needed to see "a real
indication from North Korea that they've made the strategic decision
to give up nuclear weapons" before a third summit between Trump and
(Reporting by Joyce Lee, Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin; Additional
reporting by David Brunnstrom, Idrees Ali, Jeff Mason and Phillip
Stewart in WASHINGTON; Editing by Sandra Maler, Paul Tait, Robert
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