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China slams 'irresponsible' Trump for North Korea claim

Photo: Reuters

China has called Donald Trump "irresponsible" after the US president cancelled his top diplomat's latest trip to North Korea.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was due to visit North Korea next week for what he described as the next stage in ensuring the "final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea".

But Trump, following independent reports that North Korea has done little or nothing to roll back its nuclear program, postponed Pompeo's trip on Friday.

"I have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea, at this time, because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Trump tweeted. "Additionally, because of our much tougher Trading stance with China, I do not believe they are helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were (despite the UN Sanctions which are in place)..."

The United States has escalated a trade war with China by implementing tariffs in response to what Trump believes are unfair trade practices. China put in place retaliatory measures after the United States imposed tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese products in July.

Beijing hit back at Trump's "capricious" accusations in a statement posted on the foreign ministry website on Saturday.

"The US statement is contrary to basic facts and is irresponsible. We are seriously concerned about this," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in the statement.

"All parties concerned should ... show more sincerity and flexibility, instead of being capricious and put the blame on others," he said.

Beijing supports "advancing the process of a political settlement" following the Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore, the statement said.

Meanwhile, while describing the postponement of Pompeo's trip as a setback, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said that it expects China to continue serving a "constructive role" in international efforts to solve the nuclear crisis and noted that Beijing continues to express commitment to fully implement sanctions against North Korea.

"It's most important to maintain a long-term view while maintaining a momentum for dialogue and concentrate diplomatic efforts to faithfully implement the agreements from the summits between South Korea and North Korea and between North Korea and the United States, instead of attaching meaning to each change in the situation," the ministry said in a statement.

"While we consider the delay of the visit to North Korea as unfortunate, we believe it's most important for the North Korea-US dialogue including Secretary Pompeo's visits to North Korea to contribute to substantial progress in complete denuclearization and the establishment of a permanent peace regime in the Korean Peninsula," the statement said.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa spoke with Pompeo over the phone and agreed that the allies should work to keep the atmosphere of dialogue alive, it said.

Trump's surprise announcement appeared to mark a concession by the president to widespread concerns that his prior claims of world-altering progress on the Korean Peninsula had been strikingly premature. Ending a period of animosity over North Korea's nuclear and missile development, Trump made history by meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June. But the meeting only produced a vague statement on a nuclear-free peninsula without describing how and when it would occur.

Post-summit nuclear talks got off to a rocky start, with North Korea accusing the United States of making unilateral demands on denuclearization. North Korea has been demanding that the United States ease or lift the sanctions that are crippling its economy. It also wants the United States to fast-track discussions to formally declare an end the 1950-53 Korean War, which stopped on an armistice and not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula technically at war.

Pompeo and other administration officials have suggested some concessions short of easing or lifting sanctions are possible before verified denuclearization, but have refused to be specific about what they could be. And they have been skeptical about an end-of-war declaration in the absence of any progress on the nuclear matter.

Trump's decision to call off Pompeo's trip is clearly a frustrating development for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who continues to push for inter-Korean engagement. Moon, who lobbied hard for the meeting between Trump and Kim, plans to visit Pyongyang in September for his third summit with Kim this year. Moon says that improving relations between the rivals would be an important part of the global diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff because Kim would not give up his arsenal unless he feels safe.

White House officials did not immediately comment on what prompted Trump to call off Pompeo's trip. The Department of State had no immediate comment on the matter and referred questions to the White House.

Trump said on Friday that Pompeo would still head to North Korea "in the near future", saying this was likely to occur when the US-China trading relationship is "resolved".


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