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Suspicions emerge N. Korea trying to delay denuclearization talks

In this combination of file photos, U.S. President Donald Trump, left, is seen in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on May 16, 2018, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in a meeting with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in in Panmunjom, South Korea, on April 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Korea Summit Press Pool via AP, File)

WASHINGTON -- The United States has been unable to enter working-level talks on the denuclearization of North Korea because Pyongyang has not yet notified Washington of the line-up of its delegation, diplomatic sources said.

Some observers point to the possibility that North Korea is trying to delay the bilateral talks, though U.S. President Donald Trump told a news conference following his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 that negotiations would start within the week at the earliest.

Moreover, there are speculations that a conflict may have emerged within the North Korean regime over how to respond to denuclearization talks with the United States.

In a joint statement signed by Trump and Kim on June 12, the United States identified Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the head of the U.S delegation responsible for working-level talks. However, North Korea has not identified its delegation head for meetings with the United States, only stating that "a relevant high-level DPRK official" will represent Pyongyang at the talks.

Although Pompeo's counterpart in North Korea is Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, speculations are spreading that Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea who played a leading role in prior consultations with the United States, will lead Pyongyang's delegation in the bilateral talks.

Following the summit meeting in Singapore, confidence-building efforts by the United States and North Korea have made certain progress. The United States and South Korea called off their regular joint military drills and North Korea has begun to gather and return the remains of U.S. soldiers who died during the 1950-1953 Korean War. However, denuclearization talks could be held at North Korea's pace and be prolonged.

In an MSNBC television program aired on June 23, Secretary of State Pompeo displayed confidence that progress will be made in the denuclearization talks saying that the situation is different now because both Washington and Pyongyang understand that a red line has been drawn. However, Pompeo made no mention of whether and how the United States had contact with North Korea following the summit.

(Japanese original by Kota Takamoto, North America General Bureau)

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