Pompeo may restart talks with North in Nov.

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Pompeo may restart talks with North in Nov.

Talks between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a senior North Korean official are expected to take place in the second week of November, right after the American midterm elections, according to diplomatic sources Tuesday.

It’s expected that the talks will take place on U.S. soil, either Washington or New York, and that such a meeting could put back on track stalled denuclearization talks and plans for holding a second North-U.S. summit.

Pompeo told the Voice of America on Oct. 19 that he hoped the meeting would take place “in the next week and a half or so.” His remarks came after his fourth visit to Pyongyang on Oct. 7, where he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and also pushed for the holding of lower level talks to move forward denuclearization plans.

However, the Nov. 6 U.S. midterm election seems to have delayed such talks. One Korean diplomatic source with knowledge of U.S.-North Korea negotiations first told the Yonhap News Agency Monday that the high-level meeting, originally scheduled for the end of October, had been “delayed by a couple days due to circumstances on the U.S. side,” while the location was expected to be on the U.S. East Coast.

It is expected that Pompeo’s counterpart for the talks will be Kim Yong-chol, the vice chairman of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party and director of the United Front Department, which handles inter-Korean relations.

Kim, a former spy chief, traveled to New York for talks with Pompeo at the end of May, then made a trip to Washington to deliver to U.S. President Donald Trump a letter from Kim Jong-un. Kim Yong-chol became the highest-ranking official from Pyongyang to visit Washington in 18 years and his visit put back on track the first-ever North-U.S. summit on June 12 in Singapore after it was briefly canceled by Trump in late May.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha held a telephone conversation with Pompeo Monday.

A Korean Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday that during the phone conversation, which came at the request of Washington, “Secretary Pompeo explained to our foreign minister the trends in the North-U.S. follow-up negotiations. This included discussions on who will take part and the location, but I cannot reveal further details at the moment because it pertains to negotiations happening between the North and United States.”

The two sides also discussed Washington’s plan to reinstate sanctions on Iran, and Kang asked the U.S. government to “exercise flexibility to the extent possible,” said South’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement. Seoul wants to be exempted from the sanctions in order to minimize damage to Korean companies doing business with Tehran.

In August, the Trump administration decided to restore sanctions that were lifted in 2015 following the Iran nuclear accord, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The renewed U.S. sanctions take effect Nov. 5 and target Iran’s energy sector and transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran. This comes as Seoul backs some phased sanctions relief for Pyongyang to enable inter-Korean relations to advance, while Washington insists that maximum pressure will be maintained.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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