Lee praised Donald Trump for summitting with Kim Jong Un, but criticized his attempt to negotiate an all-in-one "big deal." Photo: AFP/Saul Loeb

Two years after a landmark summit between North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump, any hopes for improved ties have turned to feelings of “despair,” Pyongyang’s foreign minister said Friday.

Trump and Kim sat down in Singapore on June 12, 2018 – the first summit between leaders of the two countries. 

But negotiations over the North’s nuclear program have been deadlocked since the collapse of a second Trump-Kim meeting in Hanoi last year over what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.

In a lengthy statement carried by the state Korean Central News Agency, Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon said while people in both countries wanted peace, Washington was “hell-bent on only exacerbating the situation.”

“What stands out is that the hope for improved DPRK-US relations – which was high in the air under the global spotlight two years ago – has now been shifted into despair characterised by spiraling deterioration,” Ri said in the statement. DPRK stands for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Even a slim ray of optimism for peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula has faded away into a dark nightmare,” Ri added.

The foreign minister said the country had decided to bolster its national nuclear deterrent “to cope with the US unabated threats of nuclear war.”

Ri went on to detail what he called past decisions of “epoch-making resolve” by Pyongyang to improve ties including a moratorium on nuclear testing, the dismantling of the key Punggye-ri test site and the repatriation of the remains of US soldiers from the Korean War.

But on January 1 this year, Kim declared an end to the self-imposed test ban.

Pyongyang is subject to multiple UN Security Council sanctions over its banned weapons programs, but has carried out a series of tests in recent months – often describing them as multiple launch rocket systems, although Japan and the United States have called them ballistic missiles.

“The US professes to be an advocate for improved relations with the DPRK, but in fact, it is hell-bent on only exacerbating the situation,” Ri said in the statement carried by KCNA.

“As a result, the Korean peninsula has now turned into the world’s most dangerous hotspot haunted uninterruptedly by the ghost of nuclear war.”

‘Empty promise’

He accused the United States of using its claim of wanting to improve ties to mask a desire for “regime change,” and accused Trump specifically of not offering Pyongyang anything substantial.

“Never again will we provide the US chief executive with another package to be used for achievements without receiving any returns. Nothing is more hypocritical than an empty promise,” Ri said.

Trump has repeatedly spoken of his close personal ties with Kim.

The pair met a third time in June 2019 in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean peninsula, when Trump stepped onto North Korean soil – a first for any American president.

But the meeting produced little in terms of tangible progress.

And Ri said for the North, maintaining the personal relationship between Trump and Kim could no longer bring any “factual improvement” to overall ties.