PYONGYANG, North Korea - Hopes for a third summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump appeared to be revived Wednesday even after Pyongyang rebuked Washington over "hostility" that "viciously slandered" the country.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry accused the US of engaging in "extreme hostile acts" against their country, specifically calling out Secretary of State Mike Pompeo but sparing Trump from their criticism.
Yet just hours after the statement published, South Korean President Moon Jae-in revealed that the long-time adversaries had been talking "behind the scenes" and "engaged in dialogue in regard to a third summit."
"There's no reason to regard the current situation as a stalemate in the peace process on the peninsula just because the pace has remained slow," Moon said in a written question-and-answer session with several media outlets.
"Complete denuclearization and a permanent peace regime on the peninsula are tasks that cannot be achieved overnight."
Denuclearization talks between North Korea and the US had appeared stalled since the last summit between Trump and Kim ended abruptly in Hanoi without a deal in February.
A recent exchange of letters between the two leaders had revived hope of a breakthrough.
Trump is scheduled to travel to Osaka, Japan, for the G20 summit from Friday, before going to South Korea to meet with Moon. He is reportedly considering a visit to the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas, a South Korean government official said.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry statement stopped short of accusing Trump of wrongdoing. It even referred to him as the "supreme leader" of the United States, the same title by which Kim is referred to in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as North Korea is officially known.
It came days after Kim said he received an "excellent" personal letter from Trump. It followed one that Kim sent to Trump, which the US President described as "beautiful."
Analysts had hoped the exchange could get denuclearization talks back on track. But the North Korean statement appeared to distinguish "their bromance from the relationship between their two countries," said Duyeon Kim, an analyst at the Center for a New American Security.
"It sounds like they're sending a warning to Washington, almost as if to manage expectations ahead of a third summit, while making an appeal to Trump to basically put a straight jacket on his staff."
The North Korean statement accused Pompeo of making a "reckless remark" when he said it was the fact that 80% of North Korea's economy was under sanctions that had brought the country to the table.
"Our state is not a country that will surrender to the US sanctions, nor are we a country which the US could attack whenever it desires to do so," the ministry spokesperson said.
"If anyone dares to trample over our sovereignty and the right to existence, we will not hesitate to pull a muscle-flexing trigger in order to defend ourselves."
Foreign Ministry statements published in KCNA are considered more authoritative than commentaries or opinion pieces authored by those outside the ministry or the higher echelons of the ruling Worker's Party.
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