Pompeo-Kim Young Chol meeting delayed

The State Department on Wednesday announced a planned meeting with a top North Korean envoy had been delayed, even as President Trump said he hoped to hold a second summit with Kim Jong Un “early next year.”

Background

The relationship between the US and North Korea has always been fractious. The North Korean nuclear program has been a source of concern for the US and the international community for decades. North Korea has remained an isolated nation and its nuclear program has especially been a concern for the international community. In 2017, North Korea launched 23 missiles over the course of 16 tests. In November, North Korea tested its most potent missile yet. The Hwasong-15 missile reached an unprecedented height of almost 4,500 kilometres (2,800 miles).

However, since the beginning of 2018, global tensions with the isolated state have begun to ease. Pyongyang has indicated that it is willing to re-establish diplomatic ties with the outside world, beginning with the Pyeongchang Olympics, which were hailed as the “Peace Olympics”. In April, US officials confirmed that the then-CIA director Mike Pompeo had visited Kim Jong-Un in a top-secret meeting over Easter. On April 27th, North and South Korean leaders Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-In held a historic summit, the first in over a decade. The two nations announced that they had agreed to end the 60-year Korean War and signed the Panmunjom Declaration which agreed to denuclearise North Korea.

Analysis

The State Department on Wednesday announced a planned meeting with a top North Korean envoy had been delayed, even as President Trump said he hoped to hold a second summit with Kim Jong Un “early next year.”

Trump’s remarks followed a surprise notice by the State Department that a scheduled meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his counterpart in New York had been called off at the last minute, suggesting a growing rift between Washington and Pyongyang over the denuclearization process and the right time to lift sanctions. Trump told reporters at the White House that Pompeo’s meeting “is going to be rescheduled,” but gave no further specifics on why the talks were called off.

Last week, North Korea repeated its demand that Washington lift sanctions as part of a step-by-step approach toward dismantling the North’s nuclear program. But Trump said sanctions relief first required concessions on the part of Pyongyang.

Pompeo had been due to hold talks in New York on Thursday with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol aimed at paving the way for a second summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un and at making progress on denuclearization. Trump told a White House news conference the change was “because of trips that are being made,” but did not elaborate on these. “We are going to make it ... another day,” he said. “But we’re very happy with how it’s going with North Korea. We think it’s going fine. We’re in no rush.”“I’d love to take the sanctions off but they have to be responsive, too, it’s a two-way street,” he said.

North Korea wants both sides to take “simultaneous and phased” steps, with its concessions matched by similar steps from Washington, to reassure the North Korean leader he can safely scale back or dismantle his nuclear weapons program. The United States takes a fundamentally different approach, demanding North Korea fully denuclearize before sanctions are lifted.

Kim pledged to work towards denuclearization at an unprecedented first meeting with Trump in Singapore but negotiations have made little headway since, with North Korea falling short of U.S. demands for irreversible moves to abandon a weapons program that potentially threatens the United States.

Pyongyang has complained that Washington has not made concessions in return for the moves it has taken and warned it could resume development of its nuclear program if the United States did not drop its sanctions campaign.

Assessment

Our assessment is that the US-North Korea negotiations are unlikely to move forward with both sides remaining adamant on their stances. We believe Seoul will likely forge a new agreement with Pyongyang on greater economic cooperation without US approval. We also feel that the re-scheduled Pompeo-Kim Yong Chol meeting will be to lay the groundwork for another Trump-Kim Jong Un summit late next year. 

Read more: 
1) Pompeo visits Pyongyang

2) Trump hails ‘diplomatic success’ with North Korea

3) North Korea backtracks