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US, North Korea set to resume nuke talks ‘within days’

On June 12, 2018, in Singapore, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands after signing an agreement at the Capella Hotel. (Ministry of Communications Singapore/Zuma Press/TNS)
October 01, 2019

Officials for the United States and for North Korea have both separately confirmed plans to resume talks with North Korea regarding an end to its nuclear weapons program.

In comments reported Tuesday by the New York Times, North Korea’s first vice foreign minister Choe Son-hui said talks between her country and the U.S. will begin with a diplomatic contact on Friday and will continue on to working-level negotiations on Saturday.

“It is my expectation that the working-level negotiations would accelerate the positive development of the D.P.R.K.-U.S. relations,” Choe said in a statement to the North’s Korean Central News Agency.

“I can confirm that U.S. and D.P.R.K. officials plan to meet within the next week,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told the New York Times. “I do not have further details to share on the meeting.”

Previous efforts between the U.S. and North Korea to reach a denuclearization deal ended in February without an agreement. President Donald Trump reportedly disagreed with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, regarding the pace at which the U.S. would lift sanctions from North Korea.

“Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that,” Trump said at the time.

Following the failure of those February talks, North Korean officials suggested denuclearization efforts may end entirely and said the U.S. was using “gangster-like” behavior to pressure their cooperation.

In the months following the apparent falling out, North Korea has conducted a number of ballistic missile tests, appearing to undermine the prospects of returning to the negotiation table.

At the end of June, Trump made an apparently impromptu travel stop to the Korean demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea and spoke with Kim for some 53 minutes. Though the meeting did not reportedly involve any negotiation talks, Trump did express optimism for continued denuclearization talks.

“It’s just a step. It might be an important step and it might not,” Trump said at the time. “As far as another meeting, let’s see what happens today before we start thinking about that.”

Trump’s decision to fire John Bolton also appealed to North Korea’s hopes for renewed peace talks. While Bolton suggested talks are doomed to failure, Trump himself pointed to the lack of North Korean nuclear testing and recent the return of U.S. captives as signs that a “new method” may result in a better outcome with North Korea.

The Tuesday news of renewed talks has also given South Korean officials some optimism.

“We hope that both sides will use these working-level talks to make quick and concrete progress for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a permanent peace there,” said Ko Min-jung, a spokeswoman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in.