Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe praised on Sunday U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's conduct at denuclearization talks with North Korean officials who accused America's top diplomat of making "gangster-like" demands.
The North's relatively harsh tone contrasts somewhat with what Pompeo said after holding talks with Kim Yong-chol, a close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, for two straight days from Friday, though he also admitted that there was "more work to be done".
In a statement issued by a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman and carried by the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea lashed out at the U.S. for seeking "unilateral and forced denuclearisation" from Pyongyang.
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".
On Saturday, Pompeo said he spent "a good deal of time" in the latest talks discussing a denuclearisation timeline and the declaration of the North's nuclear and missile facilities.
In a statement from the North's Foreign Ministry spokesman, the North bashed what it called "unilateral and gangster-like" USA demands for denuclearization, adding that it jeopardizes the commitments made at last month's summit with President Donald Trump.
Pyongyang's criticism of the meeting with the secretary of state was at odds with Pompeo's initial assessment that the talks over denuclearization were productive. He stressed there was still more work to be done in other areas, much of which would be done by working groups that the two sides had set up to deal with specific issues. Pompeo asserted that the United States will again meet with North Korea next week in the demilitarized zone.
He noted, however, that "there are things that I have to clarify", Reuters reported.More news: Scott Pruitt quits as head of USA environment agency
"But we did have very serious discussion on very important matters yesterday", said Kim via an interpreter. Another meeting is scheduled between the US and North Korea on July 12 at the Demilitarized Zone, with the Department of Defense to take the lead on those talks.
The US politician did not meet with North Korea's leader during this visit.
Pompeo said he was willing to grant some concessions to North Korea during the country's denuclearization process in pursuit of further improving relations between the two countries, but added economic sanctions are " a different kettle of fish altogether".
Abe has made it a priority to resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s and has expressed a willingness to hold direct talks with North Korea even as questions remain over what a potential summit will yield.
"Chairman Kim is still committed, I had a chance to speak to President Trump this morning".
-North Korea summit in Singapore, Trump declared the North was no longer a threat and would hand over the remains of Americans killed during the Korean War.
After two days of talks with senior officials, he said efforts to push Pyongyang towards abandoning nuclear weapons had worldwide backing.
"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.