By Sangmi Cha and Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has received birthday greetings to its leader Kim Jong Un from U.S. President Donald Trump, but their personal relationship is not enough for a return to talks, according to a statement published on Saturday by state news agency KCNA.
The comments come against the backdrop of stalled denuclearization talks following a flurry of diplomacy between the United States and North Korea in 2018 and early 2019.
While Kim could personally like Trump, he would not lead his country on the basis of personal feelings, Kim Kye Gwan, an adviser to the North Korean foreign ministry, said in the statement.
“Although Chairman Kim Jong Un has good personal feelings about President Trump, they are, in the true sense of the word, ‘personal’,” he said.
“We have been deceived by the United States, being caught in the dialogue with it for over one year and a half, and that was the lost time for us.”
North Korea will not discuss proposals such as those Trump made at his last summit with Kim Jong Un in Hanoi in February 2019, the foreign ministry adviser said.
The North will not give up its nuclear facilities for partial sanctions relief, and will only return to talks when the United States makes concessions, he added.
“The reopening of dialogue between the DPRK and the U.S. may be possible only under the condition of the latter’s absolute agreement on the issues raised by the former, but we know well that the U.S. is neither ready nor able to do so,” he said.
The abbreviation DPRK refers to the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Saturday’s comments show how ties between leaders are sometimes only marginally useful for diplomacy, said Mason Richey, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul.
“At least one member of the U.S.-North Korea diplomatic ‘bromance’ is mature enough to admit that personal feelings are just that,” Richey added.
“Kim Kye Gwan’s statement doesn’t close the door on diplomacy any more than it already was, but he underlined how the U.S. and North Korea have fundamentally different strategic interests with almost no meaningful overlap.”
WARNING TO SOUTH KOREA
The North Korean adviser also cautioned South Korea to steer clear of ties between the North and the United States, saying it should not seek “to play a mediator role”.
On Friday, a South Korean official said Trump had asked the South Koreans to pass on birthday greetings to North Korea.
For South Korea to meddle in personal relations between Kim and Trump was “presumptuous”, the North Korean adviser said, adding that the North had already directly received from Trump a letter with the greetings.
“But they seem not to know that there is a special liaison channel between the top leaders of the DPRK and the United States.”
South Korea’s presidential Blue House declined to comment.
The North’s comments come after South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s administration signaled it wanted to renew “independent” economic engagement with the North, Richey added.
“This is another slap in the face, which Moon seems determined to accept ad infinitum.”
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha and Josh Smith; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)