North Korean officials rejected a potential meeting with South Korea and United States envoy Stephen Biegun on Tuesday morning, the Associated Press reported.
“We have no intention to sit face-to-face with [the] U.S.,” senior foreign ministry official Kwon Jong Gun said in a statement released by North Korea’s official state-run news agency.
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The statement came as Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun arrived in South Korea. Biegun plans to meet with South Korean defense officials on Wednesday before leaving for Japan on Thursday. He also acts as President Trump’s special envoy to North Korea.
Pyongyang called South Korean efforts to resume trilateral nuclear talks with the United States “nonsensical.”
North Korea’s cold shoulder to diplomatic overtures from the West comes amid rising tensions with South Korea. Weeks ago, the communist state blew up an inter-Korea liaison building soon after cutting off all communications with Seoul in response to anti-regime leaflets dropped into the country by South Koreans. Kim Yo Jong—the sister of Kim Jong Un—explained the explosion as punishment for the “riff-raff who dared hurt the absolute prestige of our Supreme Leader representing our country and its great dignity.”
In recent months, the regime has doubled down on short-range missile tests in the wake of later-disproven rumors of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s death. Intelligence sources told the Washington Free Beacon the rumors could signal potential weakness in North Korea as China distances from its neighbor.
“It is entirely possible that this was the Chinese Communist Party fecklessly looking for a diversion—any diversion—so that the world’s attention might shift to another crisis and forget about plans for ‘how to get even with China,'” one analyst told the Free Beacon.
Congress, meanwhile, voted to renew sanctions on North Korea. Senators Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) jointly proposed the continued use of the Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions and Enforcement Act. Unanimously passed last month on the third anniversary of the detained American student’s death, the legislation includes a suite of policies that halt illicit finance benefiting North Korea.
“It’s important that we continue to work together to confront the threat that North Korea poses,” Portman said in June.