Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has postponed without explanation a planned meeting with a top North Korean official in New York Thursday meant to pump new momentum into talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal.
The State Department in a statement late Tuesday evening said only the meeting with North Korean Kim Yong Chul, Mr. Pompeo’s counterpart in the nuclear talks, would take place “when [their] respective schedules permit.”
President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to being the process of denuclearization on the divided Korean peninsula at a milestone summit in Singapore in June, but the two sides have yet to make much visible progress in the months since as they sparred over continuing U.S. sanctions and the sequence of events toward a final deal.
The New York meeting, which was to include new U.S. North Korea envoy Stephen Biegun, was billed as an opportunity to discuss how to achieve “the final, fully verified denuclearization” of North Korea.
There was also widespread speculation that the New York meeting was intended to firm up a date for a second summit between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, possibly early in 2019.
A senior North Korean official over the weekend complained in an editorial carried on the official state news service of the U.S. hard line in the talks, warning the North was prepared to resume its nuclear programs if the demands were not eased.
South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters in Seoul Wednesday that his government doesn’t believe U.S.-North Korea negotiations have completely broken down or “lost their momentum,” but private analysts said the cancellation was not a hopeful sign.
“It seems most likely talks were cancelled to spare both sides the negative press of a failed negotiation, as North Korea and Washington seem very far apart on a viable path forward on denuclearization,” said Harry J. Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest in Washington.