Talks between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yong Chol, in New York was called off just a day before the meeting scheduled for Wednesday (local time). The cancellation of the high-level meeting, which was expected to make a breakthrough in the denuclearization negotiations, has fanned concerns that the deadlock could be prolonged. The delay will also likely negatively affect inter-Korean affairs, including North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s planned visit to South Korea before the end of this year.
“Pompeo’s meeting with officials from (North Korea), scheduled for this week in New York, will now take place at a later date,” Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said in a statement.
Considering that the State Department made an official announcement of the time and venue for the high-level talks just two days before, the North appears to have requested or unilaterally called off the meeting. Possibly, Pyongyang decided that it has nothing to expect from the planned talks, as the two sides failed to narrow differences on measures corresponding to the North’s denuclearization steps, including easing sanctions. After Pompeo repeatedly stressed verification of the North’s denuclearization measures in recent interviews with news media, Pyongyang warned that it could return to its simultaneous pursuit of economic and nuclear development.
South Korea’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae was apparently perplexed Wednesday after being notified about the cancellation just hours before the planned meeting, but is trying to prevent the denuclearization process from losing steam. “I don’t think the U.S.-North Korea talks have been cancelled or dialogue has lost steam even if the New York meeting was put off,” Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a press briefing on Wednesday. An official at Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said that the momentum for talks still remains and that Washington’s position is to continue dialogue with Pyongyang.
However, it seems unlikely that Washington and Pyongyang will reschedule a meeting before the end of this year. Diplomatic sources in Washington generally project that if the U.S. Democratic Party, which has regained control over the House for the first time in eight years, checks the Trump administration’s North Korea policy, the denuclearization talks could be further delayed.
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