NK-US high-level talks may resume
Preparations for the second summit between the United States and North Korea are in full swing amid signs that their resumption of pre-summit high-level talks is imminent.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday (local time) that Washington and Pyongyang are in discussion to “work out the details” over the highly anticipated summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The remark is seen as an implication that the two sides are in an advanced level of talks to fine-tune such details as the timetable, location and agenda for the summit.
Starting this year, the two sides have shown signs of resuming their stalled talks on denuclearization of the North, with Trump and Kim exchanging their bilateral willingness for the summit to resolve the ongoing deadlock in their negotiations.
For this reason, it appears likely that Pompeo will meet with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the regime’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee, in a short period of time, experts argued.
The two officials planned to hold the high-level talks in November, in efforts to break their political impasse on the denuclearization of the North. But with the regime abruptly cancelling the schedule, their rare momentum for dialogue has since shown no signs of resumption.
War of nerves
Experts said Monday that North Korea will continue engaging in a war of nerves against the U.S. before the second summit.
“Given the current political status, the U.S. appears to have already proposed (to the North) to hold the high-level talks,” said Shin Beom-chul, senior director of the research division at Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
“But the North looks not to have responded to the proposal, as part of its stalling tactic against the U.S. The North has for decades taken advantage of such a strategy when making a deal with other countries, with a view to gaining leverage in negotiations.”
The U.S. wants the North to take more concrete and verifiable steps for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But the latter has in recent months criticized Washington for not taking “reciprocal measures” in exchange for the regime’s ongoing efforts for denuclearization. The measures include an easing of heavy economic sanctions imposed on the regime.
Shin also said Seoul should play a more active role in mediating the ongoing dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang.
“The U.S. is pushing for a strategy of putting top priority on protecting the safety of its citizens by reportedly seeking to sign a deal with North Korea with the focus on scrapping the latter’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs),” he said.
The speculation surfaced last week when Pompeo said in a local media interview that the U.S. will “continue to decrease the risk to the American people.”
He did not mention specific words such as ICBMs but the so-called “America first” strategy has raised the speculation here that Washington may have set the withdrawal of the North’s ICBMs as a short-term goal before reaching the final one of complete denuclearization on the peninsula.
“If the rumor turns out to be true, America will be less exposed to the potential threats from the North,” Shin said. “But things will remain unchanged for South Korea which will continue to be exposed to possible risks from the North.”
Kim Sang-ki, director of the unification policy division at the Korea Institute for National Unification, raised the possibility that the U.S. can move in a step to ease sanctions on the North in the near future.
“The U.S. is well aware of what the North wants for the ongoing denuclearization talks, and a lifting of sanctions is apparently the most effective measure to speed up the regime’s denuclearization,” he said.