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North Korea says it’s willing to hold talks with the U.S. in September — then launches two more missiles

President Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 30 in the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas. (Susan Walsh/AP)

TOKYO — North Korea said it is willing to resume nuclear talks with the United States later this month provided Washington changes its approach — then followed up the offer by firing two more missiles, a reminder of Pyongyang’s continued weapons development.

Hours after expressing support for new talks, the regime launched two unidentified projectiles, South Korea’s military said early Tuesday, continuing a summer of launches that have been condemned by U.S. allies but downplayed by President Trump as “very standard” tests.

North Korea fired the projectiles at 6:53 a.m. and 7:12 a.m. from Kaechon, north of Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, adding that their maximum flight distance was estimated to be 205 miles.

U.S. officials have continued to request meetings with North Korean officials to negotiate an end to the regime’s nuclear weapons program, but in recent months those requests have gone unanswered.

North Korea’s comments came in a statement released late Monday in Pyongyang, a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed hope for a resumption in the stop-start dialogue process.

“We have willingness to sit with the U.S. side for comprehensive discussions of the issues we have so far taken up at the time and place to be agreed late in September,” Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said in the statement, which was carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

“I believe that the U.S. side will come out with a proposal geared to the interests of the DPRK and the U.S. and based on the calculation method acceptable to us,” she said, using an abbreviation for North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

If the United States does not change its approach “at the hard-earned working-level talks with North Korea,” a deal between the two countries will not happen, she said.

Trump has repeatedly insisted that North Korea can have a “bright future” if it surrenders its nuclear weapons. North Korea, in response, insists that it has no intention of unilaterally giving up its nuclear arsenal, which it says is necessary to deter external aggression and maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula. 

Signs of progress between Trump and North Korea are hard to find

That disagreement — combined with Trump’s rejection of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s demands for the lifting of almost all meaningful sanctions in return for a very partial rollback of Pyongyang’s nuclear program — caused the breakdown of talks at their summit in Hanoi in February.

In April, Kim said he would give the United States until the end of the year to make a “bold decision” and change its approach to talks. Otherwise, he warned, he would be forced to seek a new path.

Nevertheless, Pompeo insists Kim has promised to denuclearize and said Sunday that the administration was “hopeful that in the coming days or perhaps weeks we’ll be back at the negotiating table with them.”

Talks between the two sides were supposed to resume soon after the late-June summit between Trump and Kim at the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas. But the promised “working-level” dialogue never took place.

Instead, North Korea continued to conduct tests of short-term ballistic missiles and complained bitterly about U.S.-South Korea military exercises and Seoul’s weapons purchases.

But having made its point, Pyongyang appears finally ready to talk again.

Although the ballistic missile tests violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, Pompeo told ABC News’s “This Week” that they did not violate the commitments Kim had made to Trump.

“I think President Trump would be very disappointed if Chairman Kim doesn’t return to the negotiating table or conducts missile tests that are inconsistent with the agreements that they made when the two of them were together these three times,” Pompeo said in an interview. The two leaders had also met in Singapore in June 2018.

John Hudson in Washington contributed to this report.

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