The US envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has distanced the Trump administration from proposed contacts between North and South Korea, saying it would not take any talks seriously if Pyongyang did not abandon its nuclear arsenal.
Haley’s dismissive assessment of planned high-level talks between Seoul and Pyongyang was in clear contrast with the state department’s more cautious response – the latest example of Haley taking an independent line on foreign policy issues from the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.
The White House and the state department denied that – in offering to send a delegation to South Korea for the Winter Olympics in February – the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had succeeding in driving a wedge between South Korea and the US.
But there was a clear gap between Haley’s remarks and the willingness of the Seoul government expressed earlier on Tuesday to hold talks with the North “at any time and place, and in any form”.
The South Korea’s unification minister, Cho Myoung-gyon, proposed holding high-level talks with North Korea next week in the border village of Panmunjom, where they last held contacts two years ago.
North Korea state radio reported on Wednesday an inter-Korean communication line would be reopened at the village at 3pm Pyongyang time.
“We hope that the South and North can sit face to face and discuss the participation of the North Korean delegation at the Pyeongchang Games, as well as other issues of mutual interest for the improvement of inter-Korean ties,” Cho told reporters in Seoul, according to Yonhap news agency.
Asked for a response to the diplomatic overtures, Haley told journalists at the UN: “We won’t take any of the talks seriously if they don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea.”
“We consider this to be a very reckless regime,” the US envoy said. “We don’t think we need a Band-Aid, and we don’t think we need to smile and take a picture. We think that we need to have them stop nuclear weapons, and they need to stop it now. So North Korea can talk with anyone they want but the US is not going to recognise it or acknowledge it until they agree to ban the nuclear weapons that they have.”