NK-US high-level talks may re­sume

The Korea Times - - NATIONAL - By Lee Min-hyung mh­[email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

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.

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