U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with North Korea’s Kim Yong Chol in New York City on Thursday, the State Department confirmed on Monday.
Pompeo will be accompanied by Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, State Department spokeperson Heather Nauert said in a statement, in a high-stakes meeting likely to focus on sanctions and denuclearization.
“The Secretary and Vice Chairman Kim will discuss making progress on all four pillars of the Singapore Summit joint statement, including achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of the DPRK,” Nauert said.
Kim, who serves as vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and director of the United Front Department, is likely to be joined by DPRK vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui.
The Secretary of State told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he and Kim would use the meeting to discuss plans for a mooted second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.
“I expect we’ll make some real progress, including an effort to make sure that the summit between our two leaders can take place where we can make substantial steps toward denuclearization,” he said.
The talks will represent the first high-level DPRK-U.S. talks since the Secretary of State’s visit to Pyongyang last month, in which he met with Kim Jong Un.
It will also be the second meeting between Kim Yong Chol and Pompeo in New York this year, with the two having met in late May to discuss a then-cancelled DPRK-U.S. summit.
That trip also saw Kim make a surprise visit to Washington DC, where he held an impromptu meeting with President Trump at the White House.
It remains unclear whether Kim will make a similar trip this week.
Thursday’s meeting comes amid growing uncertainty about the direction of U.S.-North Korea diplomacy, with North Korea increasingly demanding relief from international sanctions in exchange for what it sees as its concrete steps towards denuclearization.
“U.S.-DPRK diplomacy faces a potential major logjam at this time due to sharp differences in how Washington and Pyongyang want the next diplomatic steps to articulate themselves,” Chad O’Carroll, CEO of the Korea Risk Group – which owns and operates NK News – said.
“It’s not clear this gap can be bridged, even with the best will in the world.”
A DPRK official in a statement on Friday warned that the country may restart its nuclear development should Washington not take steps towards offering Pyongyang sanctions relief.
“If the U.S. keeps behaving arrogant without showing any change in its stand…the word “pyongjin” (simultaneously conducting economic construction and building up nuclear forces) may appear again and the change of the line could be seriously reconsidered,” director of the foreign ministry-linked Institute for American Studies Kwon Jong Gun said in a statement distributed by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Secretary Pompeo in an interview with Fox News on Sunday dismissed the comments as “stray voltage.”
“I’m not worried about rhetoric. We’ve seen this as we go through negotiations,” he said.
“We’re very focused. We know with whom we’re negotiating. We know what their positions are. And President Trump’s made his position very clear: No economic relief until we have achieved our ultimate objective.”
Featured image: State Department