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North Korea Rules Out Talks, as US Diplomat Visits Seoul

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 30, 2019, North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) and US President Donald Trump shake hands during a meeting on the south side of the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea, in the Joint…

North Korea says it still has no interest in talks with the United States, amid efforts by South Korea to arrange another summit between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.

“Explicitly speaking once again, we have no intention to sit face to face with the U.S.,” said Kwon Jong Gun, a North Korean foreign ministry official, in an article in the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday.

The statement was released hours before Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun, the top U.S. negotiator on North Korea, was set to land in Seoul for meetings focused on how to advance talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

The U.S.-North Korea negotiations broke down in February 2019 when Trump and Kim failed to reach a deal during a summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. Although the two sides held brief working-level talks in October, North Korea has since refused to hold any dialogue.

Earlier this month, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he would like to see Trump and Kim hold another meeting before the U.S. presidential election in November.

Trump has said his relationship with Kim remains strong, but he has not recently commented on the chances of another summit. He may have other priorities; with just four months to go until the election, Trump is badly trailing Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in the polls.

Biegun last month said an in-person summit before the election is unlikely, in part because of coronavirus concerns.

Senior North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui on Saturday dismissed the possibility of a fourth Trump-Kim meeting, suggesting another summit would only benefit Trump.

Choe’s stance was “as clear as day,” according to the Tuesday KCNA statement, which also denounced South Korean efforts to mediate between Washington and Pyongyang.

“Irony is that the South, which fails to manage its own business, came out to offer ‘a helping hand’ allegedly to solve the DPRK-U.S. relations, which are getting more and more complicated,” the statement said, using the acronym of North Korea’s official name.

“It is just the time for (South Korea) to stop meddling in other's affairs, but it seems there is no cure or prescription for its bad habit,” the statement added.

North-South relations, it warned, are “bound to go further bankrupt.”

North Korea last month ramped up tensions against the South, destroying the two countries’ de facto embassy and cutting off official lines of communication.

The moves were seen partly as an attempt to get Seoul to pressure Washington in the nuclear talks. However, the North’s motives became muddied after Kim last week abruptly suspended the pressure campaign without explanation.

South Korea, whose left-leaning government desperately wants to improve ties with the North, has remained optimistic. Last week, Moon reshuffled his national security team, elevating officials who have experience reaching out to North Korea.

Moon is expected to prioritize the revitalization of inter-Korean ties during the final two years of his presidential term. He likely hopes for a repeat of 2018, when his meetings with Kim helped pave the way for the Trump-Kim talks.

North Korea is angry at the U.S.’s refusal to relax sanctions and provide security guarantees as part of a step-by-step denuclearization process. The Trump administration wants Pyongyang to first agree to give up its entire nuclear weapons program.

North Korea is also upset at the South for failing to implement a series of 2018 agreements related to economic cooperation and reducing military tensions. The sanctions have prevented South Korea from moving ahead with the deals.