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story.lead_photo.caption In this March 5, 2019, file photo, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton adjusts his glasses before an interview at the White House in Washington. North Korea has issued a relatively mild criticism of White House national security adviser John Bolton over a recent interview he gave. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea dismissed remarks by President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, as "dim-sighted" Saturday, after he said the North would have to show more evidence that it was ready to give up nuclear weapons before Trump would hold another meeting with its leader, Kim Jong Un.

It was the latest signal of impatience from North Korea, which has grown increasingly strident since the second summit between Kim and Trump, held in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February, ended abruptly without a deal and with Kim's return home without sanctions relief.

In an interview with the Bloomberg News agency Wednesday, Bolton said a third summit would be possible only after "a real indication from North Korea that they've made the strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons."

Speaking to the North's official Korean Central News Agency, First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui called Bolton's remark "nonsense."

"We never expected anything logical from Bolton, but as national security adviser, he should at least know the context of dialogue that took place between the two leaders regarding a third summit before he says anything," Choe was quoted as saying. "I'm not sure if he meant to be humorous, but for me, his comments were unattractive and foolish."

Choe described Bolton's comments as having "no charm" and being "dim-sighted," and said the United States has nothing to gain with such remarks. But she stopped short of asking Washington to remove Bolton from the nuclear talks.

After her comments, South Korean media speculated that there might be some sort of communication between the U.S. and North Korea over a third summit.

Her criticism was much softer than the North's past rhetoric directed at the U.S. and South Korea in tense times. In 2003, North Korea's state media called Bolton "human scum" after he described then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the late father of Kim Jong Un, as a "tyrannical dictator."

North Korea's recent criticism appears to be a continuation of its frustration at deadlocked nuclear negotiations with the United States. Earlier last week, the North tested a new weapon and demanded that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from the nuclear negotiations. But the country is still avoiding harsh rhetoric toward the U.S. and directly criticizing Trump in an apparent effort to keep diplomacy alive.

In Hanoi, Kim offered a partial end to the North's nuclear weapons program -- dismantling the Yongbyon complex where it produces fuel for bombs, but not the weapons themselves -- in exchange for the end of Washington's most biting sanctions, such as a ban on coal and other key North Korean exports.

Trump has said smaller agreements may be reached but that he still wants a "big deal" to rid North Korea of its nuclear arms capabilities.

Earlier this month, Kim said he would consider meeting Trump again, but only if Washington offered a new proposal that he could accept by the end of the year. On Wednesday, he attended the test of what his country called "a new-type tactical guided weapon," signaling that his regime was getting frustrated with Washington's all-or-nothing approach and might return to more provocative weapons tests of the kind seen in 2017.

Experts say Wednesday's demonstration wasn't a prohibited test of a medium- or long-range ballistic missile that could scuttle the nuclear negotiations.

On Thursday, Kwon Jong Gun, director general of the Department of American Affairs of the North Korean Foreign Ministry, accused Pompeo of possessing a "mean character" and blocking progress in talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

Kwon blamed Pompeo for the collapse of the Hanoi talks and suggested that even if high-level dialogue resumed, Pompeo should yield his place as chief negotiator to someone "more careful and mature in communicating with us."

"Nothing's changed," Pompeo said Friday, when asked about the North Korean demand. "I'm still in charge of the team."

Both Kwon and Choe refrained from criticizing Trump and instead emphasized that Kim remained on good terms with him. North Korean officials appeared to believe that the unusual chemistry between the two leaders -- Trump once said he and Kim were "in love" -- could help the North get a better deal if talks resumed.

But top U.S. officials, like Bolton and Pompeo, insist that Washington should settle for nothing less than a full dismantling of the North's entire arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as their production facilities, before it lifts sanctions.

Information for this article was contributed by Choe Sang-Hun of The New York Times; by Hyung-Jin Kim of The Associated Press; and by Hooyeon Kim of Bloomberg News.

A Section on 04/21/2019

Print Headline: North Korea taking aim at Bolton

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