US post­pones top-level NK talks

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo on Tues­day abruptly shelved plans to meet a top North Korean of­fi­cial in New York, the lat­est twist in diplo­matic at­tempts to se­cure a po­ten­tially land­mark peace deal.

The talks be­tween Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s top diplo­mat and the North Korean del­e­ga­tion, which had been due on Thurs­day, “will now take place at a later date,” State De­part­ment spokesper­son Heather Nauert said.

“We will re­con­vene when our re­spec­tive sched­ules per­mit,” she added in a state­ment.

State De­part­ment of­fi­cials gave no fur­ther rea­sons for the de­lay to the meet­ing.

The State De­part­ment had just one day ear­lier con­firmed that Pom­peo would meet in New York with Kim Yong-chol – one of the North Korean leader’s right-hand men – to dis­cuss progress to­ward a de­nu­cle­ariza­tion pact and to work to ar­range a sec­ond sum­mit fol­low­ing his­toric talks be­tween Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jongun in June.

De­spite warm words from Trump since meet­ing Kim Jong-un in Sin­ga­pore, his ad­min­is­tra­tion has in­sisted on main­tain­ing pres­sure on Py­ongyang un­til a fi­nal agree­ment is reached.

North Korea said last week that it would “se­ri­ously” con­sider re­turn­ing to a state pol­icy aimed at build­ing nu­clear weapons un­less Wash­ing­ton lifts sanc­tions.

“The im­prove­ment of re­la­tions and sanc­tions are in­com­pat­i­ble,” said a state­ment car­ried by the of­fi­cial Korean Cen­tral News Agency. “What re­mains to be done is the US cor­re­spond­ing re­ply,” it added.

Pom­peo said he was “not wor­ried” about the North Korean de­mands and in­sisted there would be “no eco­nomic re­lief un­til we have achieved our ul­ti­mate ob­jec­tive.”

But Yang Moo-jin, a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of North Korean Stud­ies in Seoul, told AFP that the post­pone­ment was a bad sign.

“This last-minute an­nounce­ment of a de­lay is not a good sig­nal as it in­di­cates ne­go­ti­a­tions were not go­ing well enough to go ahead with the planned meet­ing,” he said.

Pom­peo has trav­eled four times this year to North Korea, in hopes of se­cur­ing an ac­cord.

The diplo­macy comes a year af­ter fears mounted of war, with Trump threat­en­ing “fire and fury” af­ter Py­ongyang’s nu­clear and mis­sile tests.

Trump has cast North Korea as a crown­ing diplo­matic achieve­ment and is ea­ger for a fresh sum­mit with Kim at which the two may for­mally de­clare an end to the 1950-53 Korean War.

Pom­peo’s post­pone­ment of talks came amid emerg­ing dif­fer­ences be­tween Seoul and Wash­ing­ton, which sta­tions 28,500 troops in the South to pro­tect it from its nu­cle­ar­armed neigh­bor.

In con­trast to Wash­ing­ton’s ap­proach, the South’s dovish pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in, who bro­kered the Sin­ga­pore sum­mit, has dan­gled large in­vest­ment and joint cross-bor­der projects as in­cen­tives for steps to­wards de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.

South Korea’s for­eign min­istry said the meet­ing de­lay was “re­gret­table,” but in­sisted that “ex­ces­sively pes­simistic in­ter­pre­ta­tion was un­nec­es­sary.”

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