North Korea and the United States will resume negotiations Saturday, marking the first official talks between the two sides since President Trump met Kim Jong Un in June, the North Korean government announced Tuesday.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said the two countries “agreed to hold a working-level discussion on October 5th, following a preliminary contact on the 4th,” according to a statement carried by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency.
Negotiations between the two countries’ diplomats have been frozen since the breakdown of a summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi in February. Another meeting between the two leaders at the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas in June was supposed to lead to a resumption of negotiations, but the stalemate persisted until now.
On Monday, North Korea blamed the stalling of the dialogue on Washington and Seoul, accusing them of failing to keep their promises. North Korean Ambassador Kim Song told the U.N. General Assembly that it was up to the United States whether negotiations “will become a window of opportunity or an occasion that will hasten the crisis.” The ambassador added, “The situation on the Korean Peninsula has not come out of the vicious cycle of increased tension, which is entirely attributable to the political and military provocations perpetrated by the U.S.”
North Korea has also insisted that talks will succeed only if the United States takes a different approach from the one it took in Hanoi, but it has been careful not to criticize Trump directly. Indeed, the North Korean Foreign Ministry also said last week that Trump is “different from his predecessors in political sense and decision” and that it hoped he would make a wise and bold decision.
“Next year, the United States will have its presidential election, and South Korea will have a legislative election. [Kim Jong Un’s] strategy could be to have his third meeting with President Trump before next year to get the best result ahead of the elections race,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the removal of John Bolton as White House national security adviser last month might have encouraged North Korea to think it could win sanctions relief by making a deal with Trump. Bolton had consistently held a hard line on North Korea. In return, Easley said, Pyongyang might offer concessions, such as an unverifiable freeze on nuclear weapons production, that Trump could present as a symbolic victory.