Pompeo says U.S.-N.K. talks not yet arranged

WASHINGTON-- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that working-level denuclearization negotiations with North Korea that were expected this month have not been arranged.

Pompeo made the remark at a press conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, saying the U.S. stands ready to resume negotiations with the North.

"We've not been able to make those happen. And we don't have a date yet when we'll be able to get together," he said. "The North Koreans know and I'm happy to affirm here again this afternoon: We're ready. Our team's prepared to meet with them. We think it's important that we do so."

Earlier this month, North Korea proposed that the two sides resume working-level talks in late September to continue negotiations on dismantling the regime's nuclear weapons program in exchange for U.S. economic and political concessions.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have had three meetings since June 2018 in a bid to strike a deal, but the negotiations have stalled since their second summit in Vietnam in February ended without agreement.

The two sides have wrangled over how much the North should denuclearize before receiving sanctions relief and security guarantees from Washington.

"We believe there are opportunities to engage in conversations that are important and can advance the objectives that were set out in Singapore now a year and a half ago," Pompeo said, referring to the first Trump-Kim summit in June 2018, where the leaders agreed to pursue complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for U.S. security guarantees.

Conditions for the resumption of talks appeared to improve in recent weeks after Trump fired his hawkish former national security adviser, John Bolton, and suggested a "new method" for the negotiations.

In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, however, the U.S. president only emphasized the need for North Korea to denuclearize in order to tap its economic potential.

"We hope the phone rings and that we get that call and we get that chance to find a place and a time that work for the North Koreans and that we can deliver on the commitments that Chairman Kim and President Trump made," Pompeo said, indicating the North has not followed up on its initial proposal to resume talks.

"I don't have that in hand yet. I hope that before too long I can announce that we do, and the team -- Special Representative (for North Korea Stephen) Biegun and the team -- can get after it," Pompeo added.

"I think it would be good for North Korea, for the United States, for South Korea, Japan, for China, all the neighboring nations, as well as the entire world."

Earlier Thursday, Pompeo held talks with his counterparts from Australia, India and Japan, who were also attending the U.N. General Assembly.

"We discussed our shared interest in building a free and open Indo-Pacific, denuclearization of North Korea, and joint efforts to promote regional stability," he wrote in a tweet.

There was speculation earlier that the U.N. gathering could set the stage for high-level talks between Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong-ho.

Ri, who attended the event the past three years, however, skipped it this year.

North Korea's address to the U.N. General Assembly is scheduled to be delivered by its ambassador to the U.N., Kim Song, Monday.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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