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Trump’s birthday message for North Korean leader ‘not enough to restart talks’

US President Donald Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The US and South Korea are “dreaming” if they think that Donald Trump birthday’s message to Kim Jong Un will lead the North Korean leader back to the negotiating table, an official in Pyongyang has said.

North Korean foreign ministry adviser Kim Kye Gwan repeated the North’s deep frustrations over stalled nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration, and stressed that the country will never fully deal away its nuclear capabilities in exchange for an end to US-led sanctions, despite its economic difficulties.

The veteran diplomat was responding to comments by South Korean presidential national security director Chung Eui-yong after a visit to the United State, in which he said that Seoul had conveyed Mr Trump’s birthday greetings to Mr Kim. The North Korean leader’s birthday is believed to be January 8.

Mr Chung told reporters that Mr Trump had asked Seoul to deliver the message to Pyongyang, which it did through the “proper means” on Thursday.

However, Kim Kye Gwan said that the North had already received a similar letter by Mr Trump directly from the Americans. The official ridiculed Seoul, saying it was clinging to its role as a mediator between Washington and Pyongyang.

“They seem not to know that there is a special liaison channel between the top leaders of the DPRK (North Korea) and the US,” he said about the South.

“Although Chairman Kim Jong Un has good personal feelings about President Trump, they are, in the true sense of the word, ‘personal’. The Chairman of the State Affairs Commission would not discuss the state affairs on the basis of such personal feelings, as he represents our state and its interests,” he said.

The North Korean leader last week opened the new year expressing deep frustrations over the stalled negotiations and vowed to bolster his nuclear arsenal as a deterrent against “gangster-like” US sanctions and pressure.

The North in past months has severed virtually all cooperation with the South, while urging Seoul to break away from Washington and restart inter-Korean economic projects held back by US-led sanctions.

Seoul had lobbied hard for the resumption of nuclear negotiations, with Mr Chung shuttling between Pyongyang and Washington to help set up the first summit between Mr Kim and Mr Trump in June 2018.

But negotiations have faltered since the collapse of the second Kim-Trump meeting in February last year in Hanoi, Vietnam. The US side rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for the dismantlement of an ageing nuclear facility in Yongbyon, which would only represent a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

Mr Trump and Mr Kim met again in June and agreed to resume negotiations. But an October working-level meeting in Sweden broke down over what the North Koreans described as the Americans’ “old stance and attitude”.

In his statement, Kim Kye Gwan said that the North will never again engage in negotiations to fully give away a crucial nuclear facility in exchange for sanctions relief, as it did in Vietnam.

“We have been deceived by the US, being caught in the dialogue with it for over one year and a half, and that was the lost time for us,” he said, criticising what he described as “unilateral” US demands.

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