US says it won’t accept North Korea-set nuclear deadline

The U.S. special representative for North Korea says Washington won’t accept a year-end deadline set by Pyongyang to make concessions in stalled nuclear talks

Biegun, who was in Seoul for talks with South Korean officials, called on North Korea to sit down for talks.

“Let me speak directly to our counterparts in North Korea: It is time for us to do our jobs. Let's get this done. We are here. And you know how to reach us,” he said.

Biegun later held separate meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, Seoul’s point man on North Korea. Moon’s office said that during his visit to the presidential Blue House, Biegun said the Trump administration wouldn't give up on seeking diplomatic progress with North Korea, but it did not elaborate further.

It's unclear if North Korea will reach out to the U.S. to resolve their widening differences on how to achieve North Korean denuclearization.

Senior North Korean officials have recently said denuclearization is already off the negotiating table and have threatened to lift a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. In past months, North Korea has also conducted a slew of short-range missile and other weapons tests.

Worries about a major North Korean provocation grew after the country said Saturday that it had successfully performed an unspecified “crucial test” that will strengthen its nuclear deterrent. Experts say the North could launch a satellite-carrying rocket or an intercontinental ballistic missile if the U.S. fails to meet the year-end deadline.

Friday’s test was the second in a week at a rocket facility where North Korea has conducted missile-engine tests and launched satellites in what the U.N. called cover for testing its long-range missile technology.

North Korea’s military chief, Pak Jong Chon, asserted Saturday that the North has built up "tremendous power” and that the findings from the recent tests would be used to develop new weapons to allow the country to “definitely and reliably” counter U.S. nuclear threats.

Biegun called the latest North Korean statements “so hostile and negative and so unnecessary.” He said they don't reflect the spirit and content of the discussions the two countries have had since the North entered talks with the U.S. last year.

He said the United States has offered “any number of creative ways to proceed with feasible steps and flexibility in our negotiations to reach balanced agreements that meet the objectives of both sides.”