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SEOUL — North Korea has criticized National Security Adviser John Bolton's "nonsense" call for Pyongyang to show that it’s serious about giving up its nuclear weapons, the second time it has criticized a leading U.S. official in less than a week.
President Donald Trump has said he is open to a third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but Bolton said on Wednesday there first needed to be "a real indication from North Korea that they've made the strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons."
"Bolton, national security adviser of the White House, in an interview with Bloomberg, showed above himself by saying such a nonsense," North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui told reporters when asked about his recent comments, the Korean Central News Agency said on Saturday.
"Bolton's remarks make me wonder whether they sprang out of incomprehension of the intentions of the top leaders of the DPRK and the U.S. or whether he was just trying to talk with a certain sense of humor for his part, with its own deviation," she said, referring to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.
"All things considered, his word has no charm in it and he looks dim-sighted to me."
The North Korean vice minister also warned that there would be no good if the United States continued "to throw away such remarks devoid of discretion and reason".
North Korea said on Thursday it no longer wanted to deal with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and that he should be replaced in talks by someone more mature, hours after it announced its first weapons test since nuclear talks broke down.
Pompeo on Friday rejected the demand, throwing more uncertainty over the possible resumption of stalled talks. The talks have been at an impasse over sanctions since Trump's second summit with Kim ended without any agreement in late February, and the North has warned it may not return to the table without immediate sanctions relief.
"Nothing changed, we're continuing to work. I'm still in charge of the team," Pompeo told reporters, insisting that he and his special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun would remain on the job.
Kim warned last week that the summit breakdown risked reviving tensions and said he was only interested in meeting Trump again if Washington showed more flexibility. He gave a year-end deadline for a change in attitude.
Experts said the North Korean moves appeared aimed at dividing Trump from senior officials in the hope of exacting concessions, particularly relief from punishing sanctions.
"Just as this week’s 'tactical weapon' test was a signal to warn Trump that his much-vaunted 'freeze' is in jeopardy, the verbal attack on Pompeo is meant to encourage Trump to ignore his hardline advisers and make a deal with his 'friend' Kim Jong Un," said Daniel Russel, the top U.S diplomat for East Asia until early in Trump's administration.
"As long as the North Koreans believe they can flatter and dupe the U.S. president into making important concessions ... they will resist dealing with less gullible and more demanding subordinate U.S. officials."