U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo headed back from a largely fruitless visit to Pyongyang after two days of negotiations, following which North Korea directly contracted his claims of progress in denuclearization talks.
At talks with Kim Yong Chol, a top official in North Korea's ruling party who had already met with Pompeo in New York, Pompeo said as he headed into the meeting that the aim of the United States was for "complete denuclearisation" of the North.
North Korea's state media said its "firm, steadfast" resolve to abadon its nukes may falter after the USA demanded unilateral denuclearisation during two days of talks in Pyongyang.
It said the outcome of the follow-up talks was "very concerning" because it has led to a "dangerous phase that might rattle our willingness for denuclearization that had been firm".
"The U.S. side came up only with its unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization", a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
But, the statement continued, "The attitude and position of the USA during the talks. was regrettable".
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State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters Saturday that Pompeo and Kim had discussed denuclearization issues along with the repatriation of American remains from the Korean War, adding, "we expect them to live up to their commitments".
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has begun his first trip to Pyongyang since President Donald Trump's summit with leader Kim Jong Un last month with a vow to nail down the specifics of the commitments Kim made on denuclearization.
Unlike his previous visits, which have been one-day affairs during which he has met with Kim Jong-un, Pompeo spent the night at a government guesthouse in Pyongyang and did not see the North Korean leader, although U.S. officials had suggested such a meeting was expected.
"But we did have very serious discussion on very important matters yesterday", said Kim via an interpreter. "So thinking about those discussions you might have not slept well last night".
The tough statement comes hours after Pompeo said progress with North Korea had been made "on nearly all of the central issues" including denuclearisation, although he insisted that work still needed to be done.
However, he emphasized that the North still has trust in U.S. President Donald Trump, apparently hinting that Pyongyang wants to keep the ongoing denuclearization talks on track.
"Trump tried to sell this as a quickly achievable deal to denuclearise and now Pompeo and team are tasked with the impossible task of pushing forward on denuclearisation without a shared understanding with Pyongyang", said Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor at the International Christian University in Tokyo.
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Both men said they needed to "clarify" certain elements of their previous discussions, but provided no detail.
"Clearly, we see some posturing particularly from the North Korean side using the leverage that they have, especially in the lead-up to Trump's visit to NATO and his big summit with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin in the coming week", said Hilary Mann Leverett, a former White House official.
"Particularly, they have suggested that they are disappointed by the USA insistence on focusing on the denuclearisation plans over what they described as big-picture issues", she said.
Mr Pompeo said more talks are needed on both.
"North Korea expected Pompeo to bring a concrete proposal for security guarantee but it was disappointed as the United States side reiterated the old demand that the North should denuclearize first before the USA gives it anything in return", he said.
One hoped-for breakthrough on this trip would have been the return of the remains of US troops killed during the 1950-53 Korean War. Nauert didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about North Korea's latest statement.
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