North Korea said on Tuesday the United States was trying to drag out denuclearisation talks ahead of the US presidential election next year and issued a veiled threat to Washington to soften its demands, state media reported.

Ri Thae Song, North Korea’s vice foreign minister in charge of US affairs, accused Washington of being “keen on earning time” instead of making concessions.

“The dialogue touted by the US is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favour of the political situation and election in the US,” Ri said in a statement on state news agency KCNA, referring to the initials of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name.

“What is left to be done now is the US option and it is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get.”

Ri singled out a US State Department statement calling for “sustained and substantial dialogue” after North Korea’s test of its new multiple rocket launchers on Thursday.

Negotiations between North Korea and the United States have hit a stalemate after a day-long working-level meeting in October in Stockholm broke down.

Kim has set an end-year deadline for Washington to show flexibility in its position, but US officials have described the deadline as artificial.

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