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(3rd LD) N. Korea says will ignore contact from U.S. unless Washington withdraws hostile policies

All News 15:01 March 18, 2021

(ATTN: REPLACES quotes with KCNA's English version; UPDATES paras 12-13; ADDS byline)
By Yi Wonju

SEOUL, March 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Thursday that it will continue to ignore any contact from the United States unless Washington withdraws its hostile policies toward Pyongyang.

North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui also confirmed in a statement that the U.S. reached out to Pyongyang even the day before its combined exercises with South Korea from a "third country."

The statement came as the top U.S. diplomat and the defense chief are in Seoul for talks with their South Korean counterparts to coordinate a joint approach toward North Korea and discuss other alliance issues.

"We have already declared our stand that no DPRK-U.S. contact and dialogue of any kind can be possible unless the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy towards the DPRK," Choe said, referring to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in the statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

"Therefore, we will disregard such an attempt of the U.S. in the future, too," she said.

Choe stressed that an "atmosphere for both parties to exchange words on an equal basis" must be created before any talks with Washington.

Choe said that the U.S. has made several attempts to reach out to the North through various channels since mid-February. Earlier, the White House said it has tried to contact North Korea for talks, but the North has remained unresponsive.

She slammed the recent U.S. attempts to reach out to the North as a "cheap trick" for Washington to buy time, and warned that it will not grant any more opportunities for talks, such as the Singapore summit in June 2018 and the Hanoi summit the following year.

In the Oct. 10, 2018, file photo, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui arrives at an airport in Moscow to leave for China en route to Pyongyang following a five-day visit to Russia. (Yonhap)

Choe also criticized President Joe Biden's administration for bringing up the possibility of additional sanctions and "pressurizing means" against the North.

"We already clarified that we will counter the U.S. on the principle of power for power and goodwill for goodwill," she said.

The statement, dated March 17, was issued as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held talks with their South Korean counterparts in Seoul to discuss a coordinated strategy on North Korea and joint efforts to reinforce the alliance.

On Choe's remarks, Blinken told reporters during a press conference in Seoul on Thursday that he was "aware" of her statement but was "most interested" in the "comments and thoughts" of allies and partners as the U.S. completes its review of its policies on the North.

In his one-on-one talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong on Wednesday, Blinken accused North Korea of "systemic and widespread abuses" against its own people and vowed to work closely with allies for the denuclearization of the North.

South Korea and the U.S. on Thursday are set to wrap up their nine-day springtime combined military exercise staged in a scaled-back manner due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this week, Kim Yo-jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, lambasted South Korea for going ahead with the military exercise, threatening to scrap a 2018 tension-reducing military pact.

She also warned the U.S. not to "cause a stink" if it wants to sleep in peace for the next four years, the first message Pyongyang directed toward the Biden government since its January inauguration.

In Seoul, the unification ministry said that in terms of its format and content, Choe's statement on Thursday can be seen as Pyongyang's first official message for the Biden government.

"We will comprehensively assess the North's various attitudes and responses going forward in consideration of diplomatic developments," a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

North Korea has long demanded an end to joint military drills between the allies, denouncing them as a rehearsal for invasion. In January, the North renewed the demand, saying that it is a fundamental issue to be addressed to improve cross-border ties, while calling on the U.S. to give up its hostile policies toward Pyongyang.

Nuclear talks between the U.S. and North Korea have stalled since their Hanoi summit broke down as they failed to find common ground over how to match Pyongyang's denuclearization steps with sanctions relief.

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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