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North Korea says it will resume nuclear talks with the US this weekend

President Donald Trump, shown here with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, walks into North Korean territory on Sunday, June 30, 2019.

VIA KCNA

By KIM GAMEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 1, 2019

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea and the United States have agreed to resume nuclear negotiations this weekend, Pyongyang said Tuesday, a move that would break a seven-month long diplomatic deadlock.

The two sides have been teasing plans to restart working-level talks since President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met on the Korean border on June 30.

But efforts remained stalled after the leaders failed to reach agreement in their February summit in Vietnam, which exposed sharp disagreements over the pace of sanctions relief in exchange for steps toward denuclearization.

North Korea’s first vice minister of foreign affairs, Choe Son Hui, said the two countries agreed to have preliminary contact on Friday and to hold working-level talks on Saturday.

North Korean delegates “are ready to enter into the (North Korean)-U.S. working-level negotiations,” Choe announced via the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

“It is my expectation that the working-level negotiations would accelerate the positive development of DPRK-U.S. relations,” she added, using the initials for the North’s official name the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

She did not say where the meeting would take place or give more details.

The State Department confirmed that “U.S. and DPRK officials plan to meet within the next week.”

“I do not have further details to share on the meeting,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

Choe’s statement came a day after Trump’s hawkish former national security adviser John Bolton warned that the North was not willing to give up its nuclear weapons and was trying to buy time with diplomacy.

North Korea has long despised Bolton, who has called for regime change and advocated a so-called “Libya model” of denuclearization, an unattractive prospect for the North since Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed years after he disarmed.

“The strategic decision Kim Jong Un has made is to do whatever he can to keep nuclear weapons capability and development,” Bolton said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

In his first public remarks since being ousted from the administration, Bolton also criticized Trump’s lax reaction to recent short-range missile tests that he said clearly violate U.S.-led United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions.

The North has suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests, but satellite images and the recent launches show it is continuing to develop its weapons programs.

The communist state also has stepped up its bellicose rhetoric, expressing anger over continued joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises and frustration over the lack of diplomatic progress after a series of historic meetings last year.

“The return to talks is not a surprise; #NorthKorea needed a face-saving interval after Hanoi to regroup - and to improve its negotiating position,” Jean Lee, a Korea expert with the the Washington, D.C.-based Wilson Center, wrote on Twitter.

“Tactics included #missile tests, threats & playing hard to get. Also wanted John Bolton Out of the picture. Now they’re ready,” she added.

Neither side has given any public indication of progress toward narrowing the gap in views about how to achieve their professed goal of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

However, the North has praised Trump’s suggestion made last month that Washington may pursue an unspecified “new method” in the negotiations.

North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations Kim Song blamed Washington for the deadlock in his speech Monday at the U.N. General Assembly.

“It depends on the U.S. whether the DPRK-U.S. negotiations will become a window of opportunity or an occasion that will hasten the crisis,” the ambassador said.

Harry Kazianis, an analyst with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for the National Interest, said the two sides need to compromise to prevent the talks from falling apart again.

“The challenges that could result if these talks fail should not be understated,” he said in a commentary, warning that could lead to new provocations on both sides.

“That can only mean one thing: A repeat of the 2017 crisis that could have started a nuclear war,” he wrote.

gamel.kim@stripes.com
Twitter: @kimgamel

 

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