SEOUL (REUTERS) – A top North Korean diplomat confirmed that the United States had recently tried to initiate contact, but blasted the attempts as a “cheap trick” that would never be answered until Washington drops hostile policies.

The statement by Choe Son Hui, first vice-minister of foreign affairs for North Korea, is the first detailed rebuttle of tentative approaches by the new US administration under President Joe Biden, who took office in January.

It came as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was visiting South Korea alongside Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a first overseas trip by top-level members of Biden’s administration.

The attempts at contact were made by sending e-mails and telephone messages via various routes, including by a third country, she said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA.

Choe said North Korea had already made clear it would not talk while the United States maintains hostile policies such as military drills and sanctions, and that the attempts at contact were a “cheap trick” for gaining time and building up public opinion.

“What has been heard from the US since the emergence of the new regime is only lunatic theory of ‘threat from North Korea’ and groundless rhetoric about ‘complete denuclearisation’,” she said.

Speaking in Seoul on Wednesday, Blinken accused North Korea of committing “systemic and widespread abuses” against its own people and said the United States and its allies were comitted to the denuclearisation of North Korea.