Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump downplayed the prospect of achieving a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea hours after the nation launched its second suspected missile launch in less than a week.
“I don’t think they’re ready to negotiate,” Trump said from the White House Thursday.
“We’re looking at it very seriously right now,” the President said of the latest North Korean launch. “Nobody’s happy about it.”
North Korea launched two suspected “short-range missiles,” South Korea’s military said Thursday. The latest provocation comes days after North Korea tested several new weapons systems late last week. They were the first confirmed launches of their kind since 2017.
Despite the setbacks, Trump said Thursday that “the relationship continues.”
Just prior to the President’s remarks, the US Justice Department announced it had seized a North Korean cargo ship, alleging sanctions violations by the country.
The ship, the M/V Wise Honest, was “used to illicitly ship coal from North Korea and to deliver heavy machinery to the (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea),” the Justice Department said, alleging that “payments for maintenance, equipment, and improvements of the Wise Honest were made in US dollars through unwitting US banks.
“This conduct violates longstanding US law and United Nations Security Council resolutions,” the Justice Department said.
Thursday’s developments are the latest sign of deterioration in the fragile negotiations between the US and North Korea. Following the failed summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un in February, North Korea has both restarted its test launches and maintained its pugnacious rhetoric.
A North Korean foreign ministry official last month called for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to be removed from negotiations, saying he had been “letting loose reckless remarks and sophism of all kinds against us every day.” Pompeo asserted he was “still in charge” of diplomatic efforts and sought to downplay the standstill in progress.
Earlier this week, the US announced it had suspended its effort to retrieve American remainsfrom North Korea — a move that had been touted as a harbinger of further progress with the nation.
“DPRK officials have not communicated with DPAA since the Hanoi Summit,” Chuck Prichard, a spokesman for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said.
“As a result, our efforts to communicate with the Korean People’s Army regarding the possible resumption of joint recovery operations for 2019 has been suspended,” he added.
CNN’s Ryan Browne, Tammy Kupperman, David Shortell, Joshua Berlinger, Yoonjung Seo and Sophie Jeong contributed to this report.