North Korean officials indicated to a national security administration official last week that working level talks could start very soon, a senior administration official said Tuesday.
The North Koreans made the comments while the national security official was at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) delivering photos from President Donald Trump‘s recent meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Both the US and North Korea will have representatives at this week’s ASEAN meetings in Bangkok, but it is unclear if they will meet. The senior administration official said that the North Koreans were sending a lower-level official in lieu of their foreign minister. A State Department spokesperson said that Special Representative for North Korea Steve Biegun would accompany Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Thailand’s capital “for ASEAN related meetings.”
Following his June meeting with Kim in the DMZ, Trump declared that working level talks would start within weeks. They had not begun more than a month later. In that time, however, the North Koreans test fired two short range ballistic missiles. North Korean media outlet KCNA reported that the launches were “personally organized” by Kim as a warning to South Korea ahead of joint military exercises with the US.
Both Trump and Pompeo seemed to downplay the significance of the launches. Trump noted on Friday that “they are short-range missiles and many people have those missiles.”
“Everybody tries to get ready for negotiations and create leverage, and create risk for the other side,” Pompeo said in an interview with Bloomberg Television last week. In that same interview, the secretary of state said he anticipated that discussions between the two sides would begin “in a couple weeks.”
“Everybody’s got to get schedules right,” he said. “More importantly than the date, if we wait two weeks or four weeks or six weeks to make sure that we’ve had enough conversations so that there can be productive dialogue when the teams get together, that’s the real objective. If it takes us another two weeks or four weeks, so be it.”
Speaking in Washington on Monday, Pompeo said there was “nothing in the works” for a third Trump-Kim summit.