North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump continue to have a "special" relationship despite stalled nuclear talks, North Korean state media said Thursday, blaming other U.S. officials for poor relations.
The statement published in the official Korean Central News Agency was attributed to North Korean foreign ministry advisor Kim Kye Gwan, who allegedly spoke with Kim "a few days ago."
"What I can ascertain is that the close relations between the chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK and President Trump are firm and the trust in each other is still maintained," Kim said, using an abbreviation for North Korea's official name.
"The problem is that contrary to the political judgment and intention of President Trump, Washington political circles and DPRK policy makers of the U.S. administration are hostile to the DPRK for no reason, preoccupied with the Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice," he continued.
The statement reiterated Pyongyang's end of year deadline for Washington to change its approach to the nuclear negotiations.
North Korea earlier this month walked away from working-level talks in Sweden, accusing U.S. negotiators of failing to offer any new proposals.
Despite the impasse, Trump has also continued to tout his relationship with Kim, even while stressing the fragility of U.S.-North Korea relations.
"I like him. He likes me. We get along. I respect him. He respects me. You could end up in a war," Trump said Monday.
Trump and Kim have met three times since last June and exchange personal letters. Earlier this month, Trump also appeared to suggest he talks with Kim on the phone.
But the two men's relationship has failed to transform broader U.S.-North Korea relations or secure progress on eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapons.
Pyongyang has appeared reluctant to talk with anyone other than Trump, leading some analysts to say the Trump-Kim relationship may actually be preventing more substantial, lower-level negotiations.
Talks broke down in February when Trump walked away from a summit with Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam over disagreements on how to begin implementing the process of denuclearization.
Following several months of little interaction, North Korea agreed to hold working-level talks in Stockholm, Sweden — apparently encouraged by Trump's suggestion of the need for a "new method" to the discussions.
But North Korea walked away after just one day of meetings. The North later said it has no intention to engage in "sickening negotiations" until the U.S. takes unspecified steps to withdraw its "hostile policy."
A Swedish diplomat who helped arrange the talks offered an upbeat analysis on Wednesday during a briefing in Seoul.
"It's been perceived that this was a meeting that this was interrupted," said Swedish Special Envoy Kent Harstedt. "I can say it was not interrupted. It was a full meeting and lasted a little bit longer than planned."
Harstedt said he was "cautiously optimistic" the talks would continue, despite North Korea not accepting Sweden's invitation for follow-up talks within two weeks.
"The DPRK hasn't closed the door for continuation at this point," Harstedt said. "We don't comment exactly on our dialogue with DPRK. We can just say we have a very good working dialogue with them."
"We also have to bear in mind that this is a very, very sensitive and complicated matter to discuss," the envoy added.
Sweden has acted as an intermediary between the U.S. and North Korea, since the two countries do not have official diplomatic relations. Though Sweden helped set up the U.S.-North Korean talks, Harstedt said he was not involved in the negotiations.
At their first meeting, held in Singapore last June, Trump and Kim agreed to improve U.S.-North Korea relations and to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But the two sides have been unable to agree on what denuclearization means or how to begin implementing it.