Pompeo’s North Korea Envoy Can’t Get Face Time With Counterparts

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More than three months after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo picked Steven Biegun to lead negotiations with North Korea, the former Ford Motor Co. executive has barely met officials from Pyongyang face-to-face.

Kim Jong Un shakes hands with Donald Trump at the US-North Korea summit in Singapore on June 12.

Photographer: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The standstill is a sign of how negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea have faltered, forcing a lowering of expectations, since President Donald Trump met with Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June. Biegun was appointed in August to help follow up on the opening created by the summit, but North Korean officials have ignored Pompeo’s invitation in September to meet with Biegun “at the earliest opportunity.”

Kim’s regime may feel emboldened to spurn the usual channels of diplomacy because Trump has emphasized his personal rapport with the autocratic leader and his interest in holding a second summit soon, according to current and former administration officials.

“The North Koreans are digging in — they just want to deal with Trump,” said Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst who’s now at the Center for International and Strategic Studies in Washington. “Are we closer to some sort of agreement? I don’t think so — people that I talk to say that we’re just genuinely stuck.”

 

Mike Pompeo, right, with Kang Kyung-wha on Dec. 6.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Pompeo met South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Thursday. The State Department said they reaffirmed their “ironclad alliance” and pledged to maintain coordination but provided few details on what they discussed. South Korea has moved to ease some tensions with its northern neighbor, sending a train across the border and demolishing some military outposts in conjunction with Pyongyang, even as the U.S. calls for a united front on international sanctions.

Yet within the Trump administration, there are growing strains over how much patience to show with North Korea’s go-slow approach on joint talks. The snubs are hard to ignore: on an October trip to Pyongyang, Biegun’s likely counterpart, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Choe Son Hui, was out of the country meeting officials in Russia and China.

To read the full article see: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-12-07/pompeo-s-north-korea-envoy-can-t-get-face-time-with-counterparts

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