North Korea rejects US offer of nuclear talks, citing “hostile policy”

North Korea said on Thursday it would ignore a US call for talks if it did not withdraw its hostile policies, days after Washington reached out to Pyongyang in an attempt to resume nuclear talks.

The statement by Choe Son Hui, the first foreign minister, came hours before US and South Korean foreign and defense chiefs met in Seoul for their first joint meeting in five years to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program.

“What has been heard from the United States since the new regime emerged is just a maniac theory of ‘threats from North Korea’ and baseless rhetoric of ‘complete denuclearization,'” Choe said, calling the offer of talks a “time-delay trick.”

He reiterated North Korea’s position that no “dialogue of any kind” could be possible unless the United States repulsed its hostility. “Therefore, we will also ignore such an attempt by the United States in the future.”

US-led diplomacy focusing on North Korea’s nuclear weapons remains stagnant for about two years due to disputes over US-led sanctions. Experts are debating whether the United States and its allies should settle for an agreement that would freeze North Korea’s nuclear operations in exchange for relaxed sanctions to prevent its arsenal from growing.

Earlier this week, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened to abandon the approach to South Korea and warned the United States to “refrain from causing a stink,” while criticizing regular US-South Korean military exercises that her government sees as an invasion repeat.

Choe broke up again with this month’s exercises, saying that the United States “openly launched aggressive military exercises aimed at us.”

Some experts say that North Korea, which is keen to win sanctions easing, could further increase hostilities with missile tests to increase its leverage in any negotiations with the United States. North Korea’s deadly economy is under further pressure due to the pandemic – related border closure which has significantly reduced its foreign trade and a series of natural disasters last summer.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Tokyo earlier this week that Washington had reached North Korea via several channels, including in New York, beginning in mid-February, but has not received a response. He said the Biden administration looked forward to completing its political review of North Korea in the coming weeks and saw both possible “further pressure” and “diplomatic channels”.

When Blinken met with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong on Wednesday, he said the United States would work with allies to achieve the nuclearization of North Korea and criticized what he called North Korea’s “systematic and widespread abuses of its own people.” According to the State Department, Blinken and Chung also reaffirmed a joint commitment to address North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile issues, which they said were “a priority for the alliance.”

Choe said US attempts to contact North Korea included emails and phone messages through various channels. She said that Washington even before the exercises with South Korea sent a message “urging us to respond to its request through a third country.”

Choe said it would “just be a waste of time to sit with the United States”

Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are on the first trip abroad by government officials since President Joe Biden took office in January. Biden is pushing to re-establish alliances that have worn out under his predecessor Donald Trump’s “America First” direction and to strengthen American leadership on the world stage in the face of growing challenges from China.

Other likely topics during Thursday’s talks in Seoul include a US desire to resolve historic disputes between Seoul and Tokyo and increase US-led trilateral cooperation, and South Korea may join an expanded format for the Indo-Pacific Group involving the US, Japan, Australia and India known as Quad.