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North Korea on nuclear talks: Up to US to choose ‘Christmas gift’

SEOUL: North Korea yesterday repeated its assertions the Trump administration is running out of time to salvage nuclear negotiations, saying it is entirely up to the US to choose what "Christmas gift" it gets.

The statement, attributed to a senior diplomat, came as North Korea continues to dial up pressure on Washington and Seoul ahead of leader Kim Jong Un's end-of-year deadline for the US to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal.

Negotiations have faltered since a February summit between Mr Kim and President Donald Trump broke down after the US rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

Working-level talks held in Sweden in October broke down over what the North Koreans described as the Americans' "old stance and attitude."

Mr Ri Thae Song, North Korea's vice foreign minister in charge of US affairs, accused Washington of repeating talk offers aimed at buying time without offering real solutions.

Mr Ri reiterated earlier North Korean statements that the country has no intentions to continue the nuclear diplomacy unless it gets something substantial in return.

"The dialogue touted by the US is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favour of the political situation and election in the US."

"What is left to be done now is the US option and it is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get," he said.

Mr Kim has said he would seek a "new path" if the US persists with sanctions and pressure. The North has tested a series of new solid-fuel missile systems in recent months, which experts say potentially expands its ability to strike targets in South Korea and Japan.

It has also threatened to lift a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests and resume launches over Japan. - AP

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