Asia Pacific / Politics

Top U.S. diplomat delays meeting with North Koreans, raising questions about ongoing nuclear talks

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

A planned meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the right-hand man to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in New York has been postponed, the State Department said in a short statement just two days before the meeting had been scheduled to be held.

The rare visit to the United States by a top North Korean official, Kim Yong Chol, the vice chairman of the North’s Central Committee, had been scheduled to take place in New York on Thursday, and the sudden cancelation was likely to raise questions about the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang.

A reason was not immediately provided for the postponement, but the statement said the two sides would “reconvene when our respective schedules permit.”

“Ongoing conversations continue to take place,” the statement said, adding that the U.S. “remains focused on fulfilling the commitments agreed to” by President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un at their landmark June summit in Singapore.

The decision to postpone the meeting comes just days after Pyongyang hinted that it could resume building up its nuclear program if crippling sanctions are not lifted.

Last Friday, North Korea warned that it could revive its scrapped policy of building up its nuclear arsenal if the U.S. does not remove harsh economic sanctions as part of reciprocal measures Pyongyang has demanded in the ongoing denuclearization talks.

By alluding to a return to its dual-track policy of “parallel advance,” in which the country simultaneously pursues economic and nuclear development, there had been speculation that the statement was merely a tactical move meant to throw Pompeo off balance ahead of the planned meeting.

The Trump administration has repeatedly said that its stance of denuclearization before sanctions relief remains unchanged.

Beyond the sanctions issue, the two sides had also been expected to discuss planning for a second Trump-Kim summit that could take place next year.