North Korea said on Saturday its resolve to give up its nuclear programmes may falter after talks with the United States in Pyongyang, contradicting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said progress had been made on almost all key issues.
North Korea's latest comments, which came after Mr Pompeo said talks had made progress, are a reminder of the difficulties that previous U.S. administrations have had negotiating with the reclusive Stalinist state and suggest that Pyongyang may not agree to any rapid denuclearisation.
He argued instead for both sides to take a series of simultaneous steps as a "shortcut" to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
When asked about the tension between the two, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, "There's a lot of hard work to be done".
The North Korean statement, carried by the official KCNA news agency, said the United States had gone against the spirit of the summit by putting unilateral pressure on the country to abandon its nuclear weapons.
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Indeed, the wording of North Korea's statement may also suggest that it viewed the four items in the Trump-Kim agreement as a schedule.
Yet Pompeo himself had earlier said he envisioned that occurring in about two 1/2 years, by the end of Trump's term.
Pompeo has the crucial task of dispelling growing skepticism over how seriously Kim is about giving up his nuclear arsenal and translate the upbeat rhetoric following the first meeting between leaders of the USA and North Korea into concrete action.
The statement said that Pyongyang had expected the USA side to offer constructive measures that would help build trust based on the spirit of their leaders' summit last month and that the North was also thinking about providing reciprocal measures.
A letter from Kim to Trump was also delivered to Mr. Pompeo through Kim Yong Chol, a top North Korean party official and former spy agency chief, who with Mr. Pompeo played a key role in arranging the unprecedented summit in Singapore.
This quest brought him back to Pyongyang on Friday for his third visit and first overnight stay, and he left en route to brief his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in an upbeat frame of mind. The spokesman also downplayed the significance of the United States suspending its military exercises with South Korea, saying the North made a larger concession by blowing up the tunnels at its nuclear test site. This statement came after two days of talks with North Korean officials.
"We did have very serious discussion on very important matters yesterday", Kim said, through a translator.
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The task of establishing the disarmament program now falls to Pompeo, who is seeking a formal declaration by the North of the size of its nuclear program, as well as an eventual timetable for it to be ended under worldwide verification and inspection.
Saturday saw Nauert say discussions had also involved the issue of the repatriation of USA service members who died during the Korean War.
She said the two sides had also discussed the return of the remains of American troops killed during the Korean War.
He noted, however, that "there are things that I have to clarify", Reuters reported.
There had been previous signs that all was not well on the diplomatic front during Pompeo's trip, which marked the most most significant engagement between the countries since the Trump-Kim summit on June 12 in Singapore.
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