HONG KONG — A meeting in New York this week between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korea’s leading nuclear weapons negotiator has been called off, the State Department said Wednesday.
The meeting, which had been scheduled for Thursday, “will now take place at a later date,” Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a written statement. “We will reconvene when our respective schedules permit.”
No reason was given for the decision, and the statement did not indicate which side requested it. The postponement of the meeting threw another wrench in Washington’s efforts to get North Korea to denuclearize.
The State Department had said earlier that Pompeo planned to meet with Kim Yong Chol, North Korea’s former intelligence chief and top diplomat. They were expected to discuss the goals established at the June summit meeting in Singapore between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, “including achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization” of North Korea, Nauert said.
Pompeo traveled to North Korea last month and met with the North Korean leader, who said he would allow outside inspectors to visit a nuclear testing site the North said it had destroyed.
The two men also discussed a potential second summit meeting with Trump. But the abrupt postponement of the Thursday meeting has raised questions about the potential for progress on negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
Pyongyang has said it wants a declaration of a formal end to the Korean War, which was only halted under an armistice. It has also called for an easing of sanctions in exchange for steps toward denuclearization.
The United States, however, wants North Korea to provide a full accounting of its nuclear program as a start to the process and has resisted any easing of sanctions.
South Korean officials said that negotiations were moving ahead and cautioned against placing too much significance on the delayed meeting.
“I don’t think the North Korea-US talks have been canceled or dialogue has lost steam,” said Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
Canceled meetings have been a regular feature of interactions between the United States and North Korea over the past year. But talks have thus far eventually proceeded after delays.
Trump called off the summit meeting with Kim Jong Un in May, but then announced it was back on after he met in early June with Kim Yong Chol. The president also abruptly canceled Pompeo’s trip to North Korea in August, citing a lack of progress in talks. But Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang in October, his fourth trip in less than a year.