North Korea wants United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo replaced with someone “more careful and mature” in talks over its banned nuclear programme, a senior official told state media, hours after the country announced a missile test.
Describing Pompeo as “reckless” the foreign ministry said a summit in Vietnam earlier this year showed that talks could go wrong “whenever Pompeo pokes his nose in”.
The April meeting in Hanoi between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump collapsed after the US president reportedlygave Kim a document demanding that North Korea transfer its nuclear arsenal and weapons fuel to the US.
The model proposed was one that Pompeo and US National Security Adviser John Bolton had supported.
“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 Jong Gun, director general of the ministry’s Department of American Affairs said, according to the official KCNA news agency.
“Therefore, even in the case of possible resumption of the dialogue with the US, I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo but… (another) person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.”
It is not the first time North Korea has singled out Pompeo for special criticism.
When the top US diplomat met North Korean officials in Pyongyang in July, he was condemned for his “gangster-like” insistence that the North move towards unilateral disarmament.
Kwon said leader Kim had made clear that the US attitude has to change, adding that Pompeo was standing in the way of a resumption of talks.
“We cannot be aware of Pompeo’s ulterior motive behind his self-indulgence in reckless remarks; whether he is indeed unable to understand words properly or just pretending on purpose,” he said.
Thursday’s attack on Pompeo came hours after KCNA announced Kim had supervised the test-firing of a new “tactical-guided weapon” with a “powerful warhead”.
It also comes after satellite imagery suggested heightened activity at a nuclear test site.
Wednesday’s test was “conducted in various modes of firing at different targets,” KCNA reported, adding that Kim described its development as one “of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People’s Army”.
The report gave no details of the weapon.
Mark Fitzpatrick, a former US state department official, told Al Jazeera that it was a “tactical weapon and not a missile”.
“North Korea is maybe exaggerating a bit in order to get America’s attention and that’s what it is all about,” said Fitzpatrick.
“Kim would like to make Trump think again about a deal that might be in the interest of both countries [following the failed Vietnam summit].”
Earlier in the week, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a US monitor, said activity had been detected at Yongbyon, the North’s main nuclear testing facility.
The think-tank said evidence suggested Pyongyang may be reprocessing radioactive material into bomb fuel.
Kim’s Hanoi summit with Trump, the second between the two men, ended abruptly, with North Korea later protesting that the US was being unreasonable.
Since then, North Korea has said it is mulling options for its diplomacy with the US, and Kim said last week he was open to talks with Trump only if Washington came with the “proper attitude”.