North Korea pans ‘gangster-like mindset’ of US as Pompeo signals ‘progress’ in talks

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in North Korea for a third trip.

North Korea slammed what it called the United States’ “gangster-like mindset” in denuclearization talks just hours after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the high-level negotiations as “productive” and insisted progress was made.

“We had many hours of productive conversations,” Pompeo told reporters Saturday in Pyongyang before boarding a flight to Tokyo. “These are complicated issues, but we’ve made progress on almost all the central issues. Some places, a great deal of progress. Other places, there’s still more work to be done.”

North Korea, however, poured cold water on the talks, saying the “attitude” of the US was “regrettable” and not in the spirit of the June 12 summit in Singapore between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We expected the US to bring constructive measures to build confidence in accordance with the spirit of the US-NK Summit,” the statement carried by state-run news agency KCNA said, according to a CNN translation of the Korean version of the statement. “However, the attitude of the US in the first high-level talks held on the 6th and 7th were indeed regrettable.”

The statement added, according to an English-language version of the statement released by KCNA: “The US is fatally mistaken if it went to the extent of regarding that the (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) would be compelled to accept, out of its patience, the demands reflecting its gangster-like mindset.”

The country called the outcome of the discussion “worrisome” and argued that the “cancerous issues” the US delegation raised were the same ones that had “amplified” distrust and the risk of war with past administrations, resulting in previous talks ending in failure.

The White House declined to comment on North Korea’s statement, and the State Department did not respond to requests for comment from CNN or reporters traveling with Pompeo.

Still, Pompeo gave assurances Saturday that North Korea is still committed to dismantling their nuclear program despite satellite images analyzed by researchers in the United States as infrastructure improvements to a nuclear facility and the finalizing of a ballistic missile manufacturing site.

When asked about the satellite images possibly showing nuclear site expansions, Pompeo said, “‎We talked about what the North Koreans are continuing to do and how it’s the case we can get our arms around achieving what Chairman Kim and President Trump both agreed to, which was the complete denuclearization of North Korea.”

He added, “No one walked away from that, they’re still equally committed, Chairman Kim is still committed.”

Pompeo also told reporters that he discussed the destruction of a missile test site that Trump said was already being dismantled.

“The North Koreans also confirmed the missile engine testing facility, we talked about what the modalities would look like for the destruction of that facility as well and so some progress there as well,” Pompeo said. “And then we have laid out a path for further negotiations ‎at the working level so that the two teams can get together and continue these discussions.”

He wouldn’t share details of the discussions on a timeline for North Korea to “complete” denuclearization and a baseline declaration of weapons of mass destruction, but he said “a good deal of time” was devoting to discussing those two things.

“I think we’ve made progress in every element of our discussion,” he said, describing the conversations as “productive, good faith negotiations.”

Pompeo was able to announce a small step toward achieving another element of the agreement Trump and Kim came to during their summit last month: the repatriation of US service members remains from the Korean War.

Out of the talks, a meeting has been arranged for July 12 at the Korean demilitarized zone to discuss with North Korean officials the return of US service members remains, according to Pompeo, who said that the date could move “by one day or two.”

Although he met Friday with Kim Yong Chol, the vice chairman of the country’s Party Central Committee, Pompeo did not meet with Kim on his trip to Pyongyang.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that Pompeo left Kim a letter from Trump. However, contrary to South Korean media reports, Nauert said Pompeo did not leave Kim a CD with the Elton John song “Rocket Man” — a nickname Trump has used to refer to Kim.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN