North Korea says United States attitude in denuclearization talks 'extremely regrettable'

Mike Pompeo addresses the media before boarding his plane at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang

They were due to talk again all day Saturday before Pompeo heads to Tokyo to brief Washington's Japanese and South Korean allies.

At the same time the U.S. state department was forced to deny reports Mr Pompeo gave Kim Jong Un a CD of Elton John's Rocket Man - a playful reference to Donald Trump's nickname for the North Korean leader.

North Korea has said that high-level talks with a United States delegation led by Mike Pompeo were regrettable and accused Washington of trying to unilaterally pressurise the country into abandoning its nuclear weapons.

North Korea's latest comments, which came after Mr Pompeo said talks had made progress, are a reminder of the difficulties that previous USA administrations have had negotiating with the reclusive Stalinist state and suggest that Pyongyang may not agree to any rapid denuclearisation.

The North Korean spokesman said a "shortcut" to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula was through a step-by-step approach under which both sides took steps at the same time.

That change raised suspicion that the U.S. was softening its demands for the country, an argument that State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert had insisted on Friday wasn't true.

In criticising the talks with Pompeo, however, North Korea carefully avoided attacking Trump, saying "we wholly maintain our trust toward President Trump", but also that Washington must not allow "headwinds" against the "wills of the leaders".

Speaking to pool reporters before leaving the DPRK, Pompeo said the two men had spent "a good deal of time" on the topic of North Korea's denuclearization.

Pompeo also said the date could move by one or two days, . and the process will begin to develop in the days to come.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that the US remains "very firm" in its stance that three basic goals be met: complete denuclearization of North Korea, security assurances, and the repatriation of remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean War.

The talks were held at a villa in an official compound close to the imposing mausoleum where North Korea's former helmsmen Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il - the current leader's grandfather and father - lie in state.

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Pompeo left North Korea without meeting directly with leader Kim Jong Un, as he has during previous visits.

"We had anticipated the U.S. side would come with a constructive idea, thinking we would take something in return", the North Korean statement said, warning its "resolve for denuclearisation. may falter".

A letter from Kim to Trump was also delivered to Pompeo through Kim Yong-chol, a top North Korean party official.

Mr Pompeo's meeting with Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Kono and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha followed two days of talks in Pyongyang that ended yesterday.

"They have gotten the U.S.to back off military exercises, back off using "CVID" [Complete, Verifiable and Irreversible Dismantlement], back off the "Libya model" of rapid denuclearization, back off on human rights, and to look the other way while China relaxes sanctions implementation". "These are complicated issues but we made progress on nearly all the central issues".

Chosun Ilbo's report was widely shared - perhaps in part because it suggested a lighthearted side to tense denuclearisation talks between the United States and North Korea.

Saturday saw Nauert say discussions had also involved the issue of the repatriation of US service members who died during the Korean War.

The trip was Mr Pompeo's third to Pyongyang since April and his first since the summit, but unlike others he did not see leader Kim Jong-Un.

"The North Koreans are in the game to get, not to give", said Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for East Asia until past year.

Kim said he heard Pompeo was "quite pleased" with the two sides' first meeting, but dropped a warning that "there are things that I have to clarify".

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