Mike Pompeo has shrugged off North Korea’s assessment of the latest denuclearisation talks as being “gangster-like”.
After discussions in Pyongyang, North Korea’s foreign ministry said that the US was making unilateral demands aimed at forcing it into giving up its nuclear arsenal.
They called the talks “regrettable” and accused Washington of acting like organised criminals.
But the US secretary of state said: “If those requests were gangster-like, the world is a gangster…
“People are going to make stray comments after meetings. If I paid attention to the press, I’d go nuts.”
He said there were numerous UN Security Council resolutions demanding North Korea hands over its nuclear material.
At the same time the US state department was forced to deny reports Mr Pompeo gave Kim Jong Un a CD of Elton John’s Rocket Man – a playful reference to Donald Trump’s nickname for the North Korean leader.
In an unexpectedly negative statement on Saturday, Pyongyang said that America had betrayed the spirit of last month’s summit between US President Donald Trump and Mr Kim.
It says the outcome of the talks was “very concerning” because it has led to a “dangerous phase that might rattle our willingness for denuclearisation that had been firm”.
The North’s official KCNA news agency said the result of talks was “extremely troubling”, accusing America of insisting on complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation.
Mr Pompeo arrived in Pyongyang on Friday for a two-day visit – his third trip to the isolated state since taking the secretary of state job in April.
Earlier reports pointed to progress being made between the two countries, with commitments for new discussions on denuclearisation and the repatriation of the remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean War.
Before departing Pyongyang, Mr Pompeo told reporters that his conversations with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol had been “productive,” conducted “in good faith” and that “a great deal of progress” had been made in some areas.
He admitted “there’s still more work to be done” in other areas.
Heather Nauert, a spokesperson for the state department, tweeted a number of photos during the talks, including one of a beaming Mr Pompeo pictured after the final meeting.
The US politician did not meet with North Korea’s leader during this visit.
A Pentagon team would be meeting with North Korean officials around 12 July at the border between North and South Korea to discuss the repatriation of remains, Mr Pompeo told reporters.
He added that talks would be held soon on the destruction of North Korea’s missile engine testing facility.