US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Friday meeting with a key aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been postponed, the State Department said, a potential setback in the seemingly stalled talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
The State Department announced the decision to reschedule the meeting in the middle of the night as results from the US midterm elections were coming in.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert did not offer an explanation as to why the talks would be postponed.
“We will reconvene when our respective schedules permit. Ongoing conversations continue to take place,” she said.
Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said his government was aware of the postponement.
Pompeo had said Sunday that he would be meeting Kim Yong Chol Friday in New York, where the two would “make sure that the summit between our two leaders can take place, where we can make substantial steps towards denuclearization.”
Pyongyang’s former spymaster and has been Pompeo’s counterpoint through most of the US-North Korea negotiations in 2018.
Trump has teased the possibility of a second summit with the young North Korean leader, saying last month that he expected the meeting would take place after Tuesday’s midterms.
Their first summit took place in Singapore earlier this year, but the talks that between the two sides since appear to have reached a stalemate.
Trump and Pompeo have consistently said that the punitive sanctions levied on Kim Jong Un’s regime will not be removed until North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons and allows the international community to verify it has done so. Pyongyang, however, insists that as long as the sanctions remain completely in place it will not negotiate with the United States.
On Friday, an official with North Korea’s Foreign Ministry threatened that if US does not ease sanctions, that Pyongyang could restart “building up nuclear forces.”
Though some experts speculate the threat could have been posturing by Pyongyang to gain leverage for the now-postponed Friday talks, a source with knowledge of North Korea’s position on denuclearization confirmed to CNN last week that the Kim regime could change its stance on its nuclear program if the US does not alter its policy on easing economic sanctions.
North Korea announced earlier this year that it would make a strategic shift away from its dual-track strategy of investing in the economy and the nuclear program and would instead focus all efforts on economic development.