Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, has ridiculed the United States’s hopes for an early resumption of diplomacy, saying Washington’s expectations for talks would only “plunge them into a greater disappointment”.
She was responding on Tuesday to US National Security adviser Jake Sullivan, who on Sunday said he saw as an “interesting signal” in a recent speech by Kim Jong Un on preparing for both confrontation and diplomacy with the US.
“A Korean proverb says: ‘In a dream, what counts most is to read it, not to have it,'” said Kim Yo Jong in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
“It seems that the US may interpret the situation in such a way as to seek a comfort for itself. The expectation, which they chose to harbour the wrong way, would plunge them into a greater disappointment.”
Kim Yo Jong’s statement came during a visit to Seoul by recently appointed US special representative for North Korea, Sung Kim, who was scheduled to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Unification Minister Lee In-young, who handles relations with North Korea, on Tuesday.
Sung Kim said on Monday that he was willing to meet the North Koreans “anywhere, anytime without preconditions” and that he looks forward to a “positive response soon”.
The South Korean foreign ministry said Sung Kim and his South Korean counterpart Noh Kyu-duk held talks on Monday and agreed to “look into terminating” a controversial working group” established to coordinate their policy towards Pyongyang.
The working group was set up in 2018 to help the two allies coordinate their approaches to issues such as denuclearisation talks, humanitarian aid, sanctions enforcement and inter-Korean relations amid a flurry of diplomatic engagement with North Korea at the time.
That diplomacy included two historic summits between Kim Jong Un and then-US President Donald Trump.
Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea expert at King’s College London, said the Moon administration would see ending the working group as a goodwill gesture from new US President Joe Biden.
“From a South Korean perspective, this was basically a mechanism for the US to block inter-Korean projects during the Trump years,” he said. “It would be a clever political move for the Biden administration to end the group since consultation between Washington and Seoul will take place anyway.”
US officials have suggested Biden would take the middle ground between Trump’s direct dealings with Kim Jong Un and former President Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience.” But some experts say the Biden administration would not ease any sanctions before North Korea takes concrete steps towards denuclearisation.
The US-led diplomacy aimed at stripping North Korea of its nuclear programme has stalled since February 2019, when the US rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of their nuclear capabilities during a summit between Kim Jong Un and Trump.