SEOUL – North Korea's new envoy to nuclear talks with the United States on Friday welcomed the ouster of President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, and the president's suggestion that Washington would use a "new method" in negotiating with the North.
The envoy, Kim Myong Gil, hailed Trump's "wise political decision" to approach North Korea-United States relations "from a more practical point of view" now that "a nasty troublemaker" — an apparent reference to Bolton — was out.
The decision to seek a new method was "the manifestation of the political perception and disposition peculiar to President Trump, which no preceding U.S. chief executives even wanted to think of nor were able to do," Kim said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency on Friday.
Talks on how to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program have stalled since the breakdown of Trump's second summit meeting with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in Vietnam in February.
North Korea has since blamed hawkish aides to Trump, especially Bolton, for the stalemate, demanding that they be removed from negotiations.
North Korea, which has called Bolton a "war maniac" and "human scum" at various times, was particularly incensed when he championed the so-called Libyan model of forcing North Korea to quickly give up and ship out its nuclear arsenal before granting the country any rewards. Libya's dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, was killed in 2011 after relinquishing his country's nuclear program.
Pyongyang appeared to have had its wish fulfilled when Trump ousted Bolton and later called his North Korea approach a mistake.
"He said the 'Libyan model.' That set us back very badly when he said that," Trump said Wednesday. "So I think John really should take a look at how badly they've done in the past and maybe a new method would be very good."
Trump made the remark when asked to comment on a report that Bolton had warned hours earlier, during a private lunch with a conservative group, that any negotiations with North Korea and Iran were "doomed to failure."
Though Trump did not say what his new approach might be, Kim, the North Korean envoy, said the president's apparent shift made him "optimistic" about talks expected to take place in coming weeks between the North and the U.S.
When Trump and Kim Jong Un met in Singapore in June 2018 in the first summit meeting between their nations, they signed a broadly worded joint statement in which the United States promised North Korea security guarantees and friendlier relations in return for Kim's commitment to "work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
But subsequent talks on how to implement the vague agreement stalled in disputes over how quickly and completely North Korea would dismantle its nuclear program and how soon the United States would start easing or lifting sanctions.
Kim, the North Korean envoy, interpreted Trump's change in tone as being in line with the approach his country has called for. "It seems he wanted to imply that a step-by-step solution starting with the things feasible first while building trust in each other would be the best option," Kim said.
Since the talks in Hanoi, Vietnam, collapsed, North Korea has threatened to abandon diplomacy unless Washington returned to the negotiating table with a more flexible offer by the end of the year. The North has escalated its pressure by conducting a slew of short-range weapons tests since July. But in recent days, it has indicated that it is ready to resume dialogue.