Trump and Kim at the Hanoi Summit. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC.

Differences among the United States, South Korea and North Korea remain regarding negotiations on nuclear issues. US President Donald Trump insists that his policy toward North Korea has “made great progress,” a view supported by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. However, North Korea did not seem to agree with how smoothly the talks were going before Trump visited Seoul.

Most notably, the North Korean Foreign Ministry berated Washington and Seoul on June 27 and said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) would withdraw from the nuclear talks. It issued a statement on its Central Committee website warning that while the United States continues to seek dialogue, the Americans have not shown sincerity, especially at the Kim-Trump summit in Hanoi.

In addition, Pyongyang once again emphasized the deadline set by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to change the bargaining parameters before the end of 2019. It also stressed that the United States should be aware that North Korea’s repeated warnings are not just words.

On one hand, US and South Korean officials have shown optimism on the talks with North Korea, which shows hope for the next round. On the other hand, North Korea continues to show resentment toward the United States. Since the Hanoi summit, spokesmen for the North Korean Foreign Ministry have twice condemned the United States publicly.

The second Kim-Trump summit in Hanoi did not conclude in any agreement. Since then, North Korea has shown great dissatisfaction toward the US for not easing sanctions. At the same time, the Americans were dismayed at what it saw as Pyongyang’s insincerity in abandoning its nuclear program. North Korea then ignored requests to restart negotiations at the working level.

However, there are some subtle differences in North Korea’s attitude toward the United States. For example, it has repeatedly criticized officials around Trump, specifically Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton for adding barriers to denuclearization. A North Korean statement on June 26 stated that Pompeo is hostile to North Korea and is hindering any improvements to the DPRK-US relations and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

In North Korea’s eyes, Pompeo and Bolton are promoters of sanctions against the DPRK. Pompeo has claimed that sanctions help with the dialogue, whereas North Korea believes the sanctions to be highly hostile acts. As for the news on June 28 of a one-year extension of economic sanctions against the DPRK, North Korea believes that the ambitions of the Americans have been exposed, and their assumption of North Korea yielding is mistaken.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry has said that the coming few weeks will be an important period for DPRK-US talks. Seoul stressed that it would continue to work closely with the Americans while encouraging Pyongyang to get back on track with the talks.

And yet North Korea chose to insult South Korea. Pyongyang not only denied the possibility of any talks in the foreseeable future but also rejected Seoul as a potential mediator.

North Korea is still holding a “wait and see” attitude toward the United States, even after Trump met with Kim at the Demilitarized Zone on June 30. The aftermath of the meeting will determine North Korea’s stance toward nuclear talks. Differences among the three parties will remain for some time.

It is worth noting that North Korea has not publicly criticized Trump himself. Trump and Kim have exchanged personal letters, demonstrating some rapport that may prove to be opportune. The interactions between the two leaders have certainly eased the tensions to a certain extent.

As an important go-between in the US-DPRK negotiations, South Korea is doing what it can to enable the two powers to minimize their grievances and strive toward positive results. After all, Moon’s administration has its eyes set on denuclearization as a top priority.

This article was first published on and was translated by Kamaran Malik.

Leave a comment