Pyongyang: Willing to Wait

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After a lengthy, six-week silence, Pyongyang finally weighed in again with extended criticism of Washington’s stance regarding US-DPRK talks, using what appears to be an authoritative-level article, written under the name of Jong Hyon and carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. The article appeared only three days after the Treasury Department announced sanctions against Choe Ryong Hae—Korean Worker’s Party vice chairman, Politburo Presidium member, and vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission, which DPRK officials say is in charge of negotiations with the US. Though the Jong Hyon article did not mention this latest development, it surely rankled Pyongyang, a fact made clear in a statement by the policy research director of the Institute for American Studies (IFAS) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea a few days later.

The Jong Hyon criticism of US administration officials was noticeably harsh, but still careful to toe the line in not attacking anyone by name. The broadside at “a brazen faced guy” who “had amicable negotiations” with the DPRK side, but back home talked about a “rogue state” and “maximum pressure” was unmistakably aimed at Secretary of State Pompeo, who has visited Pyongyang several times. Personal invective against the other side’s officials, especially leading figures on its negotiating team, marks an unpleasant moment but is not an insurmountable barrier. Pyongyang can reverse itself in its public estimation of individuals when it wants. Comment issued in the name of the Foreign Ministry tends to shy away from personal invective, and the IFAS piece, though singling out the Secretary of State—by position but not by name—left out the harsher characterization of the secretary.

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