US and North Korea To Hold Talks Mid-November Amid Growing Skepticism

North Korea and the U.S. are returning to a negotiating table to start another round of denuclearization talks in mid-November at the latest, a South Korean parliament member revealed. “The NIS (National Intelligence Service) expected the talks would resume this month or early December at the latest,” South Korean lawmaker Lee Eun-Jae briefed reporters as Nikkei Asian Review reported.

Previously, North Korea set April as a deadline following the failure of the Hanoi talks last February due to differences over denuclearization and how it works.

The meetings between Trump and Kim Jong-Un

In June 2018, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un made a historic meeting in Singapore, which gained worldwide attention. The world expected the highly-anticipated summit would create a peaceful Korean Peninsula.

During the press conference, Trump hailed the meeting as productive and honest, adding that Jong-un had agreed to dismantle missile testing sites.

However, the Singapore summit did not elaborate on how North Korea would achieve denuclearization.

“I think right now, we are absolutely stuck,” Sue Mi Terry from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) told NPR.

Last February, both leaders met again in Hanoi, Vietnam. However, the meeting failed to produce any agreements. They were supposed to talk on denuclearization, removal of sanctions imposed on Pyongyang, the reduction of US troops in South Korea, and the declaration to end the Korean War.

At the end of June, Trump abruptly met Jong-Un at the demilitarized zone after the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, ended. North Korean media outlets praised the last-minute summit. Both leaders of the world’s nuclear powers held a closed meeting.

During the press conference, Trump said that he and the 36-year-old leader were ready to re-start the negotiation after the failed Hanoi summit. However, Trump hardly mentioned the word ‘denuclearization’ during the press conference, and Jong-Un did not say anything related to sanction removals during the DMZ open session.

North Korea’s frustration and different interpretation of the term “denuclearization”

North Korea has tested missiles several times since the faltered Hanoi talks, seen as a form of disappointment with Washington, which insists it will not lift sanctions unless North Korea assures total denuclearization.

The US and North Korea have different interpretations of the definition of denuclearization. The latter demands security guarantee before giving up all its nuclear weapons that the US removes sanctions and stops military drills with South Korea.

While Washington wants Pyongyang to disband its nuclear arsenals before removing sanctions. Speaking after the surprise summit at the DMZ, Trump stated that economic embargoes would remain in effect unless the upcoming talks go on as smoothly as expected.

Last October, delegates from the US and North Korea met again in the capital of Sweden, Stockholm. However, the talks broke down, and North Korea blamed the US for not providing any new proposals, as Al Jazeera reported.

Contrary to what North Korean envoys complained, US delegates praised the meeting, saying that they had ‘good discussions’ with North Korean counterparts.

“The early comments from the DPRK [North Korean] delegation do not reflect the content or the spirit of today’s 8.5-hour discussion. The US brought creative ideas and had good discussions with its DPRK counterparts,” a statement from the US State Department said as quoted by BBC.

What to expect from the upcoming meeting?
Three meetings between Trump and Jong-un showed that something must be done to bridge the difference over the term denuclearization. As long as both leaders still stick with their principles, the situation will remain the same.

The biggest sticking points are the absence of a commonly held definition of complete denuclearization and a failure to agree on practical steps and corresponding measures necessary to achieve that objective,” Scott Snyder, a senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations told VOA ahead of the Stockholm talks.

As previous talks ended with no concrete results, it is unclear whether the planned talks will help narrow the difference over denuclearization.