Pyongyang has lashed out at Washington in a surprise move, just days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un received an “excellent” personal letter from US President Donald Trump.
In a statement Wednesday, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said that recent comments by top Trump advisers over sanctions and the decision to call out North Korea human rights violations in two reports had amounted to “hostility” and vicious slander.
Both annual State Department reports named North Korea among the world’s worst violators of human rights.
The statement was published in North Korean state media as Trump prepared to arrive in Osaka, Japan for the G20 summit.
Trump will then travel to Seoul to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and is considering a visit to the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas, a South Korean government official said.
Denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea have appeared to have stalled since a summit between Trump and Kim ended abruptly in Hanoi in February without a deal.
The Foreign Ministry statement stopped short of accusing Trump of wrongdoing. It even referred to him as the “supreme leader” of the United States, the same title by which Kim is referred to in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as North Korea is officially known.
The letter earlier this week followed one that Kim sent to Trump, which the US President described as “beautiful.”
Analysts have hoped that a recent letter exchange between the two leaders could get denuclearization talks back on track.
But the North Korean statement appeared to distinguish “their bromance from the relationship between their two countries,” said Duyeon Kim, an analyst at the Center for a New American Security.
“It sounds like they’re sending a warning to Washington, almost as if to manage expectations ahead of a third summit, while making an appeal to Trump to basically put a straight jacket on his staff.”
The North Korean statement accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of making a “reckless remark” when saying that it was the fact that 80% of North Korea’s economy was now under sanctions that had brought North Korea to the table.
“Our state is not a country that will surrender to the US sanctions, nor are we a country which the US could attack whenever it desires to do so,” the ministry spokesperson said.
“If anyone dares to trample over our sovereignty and the right to existence, we will not hesitate to pull a muscle-flexing trigger in order to defend ourselves.”
Foreign Ministry statements published in KCNA are considered more authoritative than commentaries or opinion pieces authored by those outside the ministry or the higher echelons of the ruling Worker’s Party.