U.S. calling for high-level talks with North soon

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U.S. calling for high-level talks with North soon

Washington is suggesting to Pyongyang a high-level negotiation in New York between late November and early December, a source with knowledge of the situation exclusively told the JoongAng Ilbo Sunday.

For the Donald Trump White House, the high-level meeting would be a litmus test to determine whether to hold a second summit with the Kim Jong-un regime, the source said on the condition of anonymity.

It is not known precisely how North Korea is responding. Andrew Kim, head of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, tried to figure that out last week when he visited South Korea to meet local officials, a different source told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Kim was said to have asked questions about Seoul’s stance on a U.S.-North high-level meeting and “feel North Korea out” after the regime called off a planned high-level meeting with the United States earlier this month.

The U.S. State Department announced on Nov. 6 that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was to meet Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, in New York on Nov. 8. The two envoys were supposed to continue denuclearization talks and discuss a second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

But on Nov. 7, the department said the meeting was off and gave no explanation why. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on Nov. 8 that it was the North who canceled the meeting, apparently “because they weren’t ready.”

Rep. Park Jie-won, a four-term South Korean lawmaker in the minor-left Party for Democracy and Peace, wrote on Facebook Sunday that he expected a U.S.-North high-level meeting to be held this week at the earliest or around Nov. 28 at the latest, without revealing his sources. The meeting, he wrote, will be a “watershed” moment for a second North-U.S. summit.

Pundits surmise it won’t be easy for both countries to find common ground as the United States has been pressing the North to surrender a complete inventory of its nuclear stockpiles and related facilities, whereas the North insists that a formal declaration ending the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, has to come first.

Trump said during a Fox News interview published Sunday that he’s “very happy” with the way his administration is dealing with the North.

Last Friday, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported on leader Kim Jong-un supervising “a newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon test” at a defense institute, the first time in a year that the leader was officially described as overseeing a weapons experiment.

In an editorial published Monday by the state-run newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, Pyongyang accused Washington of interfering in inter-Korean affairs and putting the brakes on cross-border projects. The article urged Seoul to distance itself from Washington, claiming that North-South relations cannot improve with South Korea relying on outside forces.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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