N. Korea-US high-level talks postponed just a day after State Department announced them

Posted on : 2018-11-08 17:28 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Analysts point to failure to reach agreement on loosening sanctions as possible reason
North Korean Workers’ Party Vice Chairman Kim Yong-chol greets US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during the latter’s visit to Pyongyang on Oct. 7. (provided by the US State Department)
North Korean Workers’ Party Vice Chairman Kim Yong-chol greets US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during the latter’s visit to Pyongyang on Oct. 7. (provided by the US State Department)

High-level talks scheduled to take place on Nov. 8 between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean Workers’ Party Vice Chairman Kim Yong-chol were abruptly postponed on Nov. 7. Observers are speculating on the reasons for the meeting’s sudden postponement just a day after its official announcement by the US State Department.

In a Nov. 8 statement, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, “Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo’s meeting with officials from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, scheduled for this week in New York, will now take place at a later date.”

“We [the US and North Korea] will reconvene when our respective schedules permit. Ongoing conversations continue to take place,” the statement continued.

While US and North Korean authorities did not disclose the reasons for the talks’ postponement, experts said the chief reason was the two sides’ failure to reach a compromise on the matters of sanctions. While Washington continues adhering to the position that denuclearization must occur before sanctions are lifted, Pyongyang has recently become vocal in its disgruntlement with the sanctions and begun loudly demanding “simultaneous measures” with denuclearization and loosening of sanctions.

N. Korea allegedly requested postponement after demanding meeting with Trump

Against this backdrop, North Korea had been urgently demanding a meeting between Kim Yong-chol and US President Donald Trump to resolve the sanctions issue and finally requested the talks’ last-minute postponement after failing to receive a definite response from the US by Nov. 7, a source reported.

Kim’s delegation reportedly booked and cancelled flights from Beijing to New York multiple times on Nov. 6 and 7 as it continued waiting for an answer from the US. The move suggests Pyongyang views the US as unlikely to adopt a forward-thinking stance on loosening or lifting sanctions without a “decision” by Trump. But the US reportedly balked at the idea of a meeting, citing Trump’s scheduled visit to Europe beginning on Nov. 9.

Within North Korea, discontent is growing over the failure to produce visible economic results due to sanctions – despite the denuclearization measures that have been initiated. An example was seen in remarks attributed to leader Kim Jong-un in the Nov. 1 edition of the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, where he accused “hostile forces” of “foolishly rampaging with dastardly sanction machinations to block improvements and development in our people’s welfare.”

Institute for National Security Strategy senior research fellow Cho Sung-ryul said North Korea “may have felt there was no point in holding talks when the US is insisting it can’t relax sanctions as North Korea is demanding until denuclearization is complete.”

“Since failure to produce results even when high-level North Korean and US figures meet could sap the momentum for dialogue, they may have decided it would be better to push the date of the talks back until there has been some preliminary coordination toward producing something both sides can be happy with,” Cho suggested.

Professor at Handong Global University Kim Joon-hyung said Pyongyang “may have determined it would not yet be capable of generating results with these talks.”

“There will ultimately be talks between North Korea and the US, whether they’re high-level or working level,” Kim predicted, adding that it was “a hopeful sign that the US midterm elections are now over and President Trump has more room to maneuver.”

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs senior official noted “numerous instances in the past of North Korea-US talks being scheduled and then postponed.”

“We don’t need to get in a state every time,” the official suggested.

“The US has announced that it plans to reschedule, so the dialogue will continue,” the official added.

US State Department Special Representative for North Korea policy Stephen Biegun reportedly communicated related details to South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon ahead of the official announcement of the talks’ postponement.

By Noh Ji-won, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Most viewed articles