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'Window of opportunity for dialogue between North Korea, US still open'

North Korea watchers believe Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is keeping the possibility of continued dialogue with the United States alive. / Korea Times file
North Korea watchers believe Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is keeping the possibility of continued dialogue with the United States alive. / Korea Times file

By Kang Seung-woo

Despite deadlocked nuclear negotiations between North Korea and the United States, Pyongyang has not fully ruled out the possibility of resuming talks with Washington ― in particular, ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, according to experts, Friday.

While Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, downplayed the possibility of her brother meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump again in a statement July 10, she unexpectedly requested a DVD of U.S. Independence Day celebrations, which hinted that the reclusive state was keeping their bilateral talks alive.

"She's saying that somebody comes to bring that tape to Pyongyang, and that's me. She's saying, invite me to United States right, that's sort of the way I looked at it," Andrew Kim, a former head of the CIA's Korea Mission Center, told Voice of America. While in office, he accompanied U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo on all four of his trips to Pyongyang in 2018.

"She opened the door right now ― they say this, they think the ball is in the American side. They're waiting. That's why since that message, she's not saying anything."

After the Hanoi summit between Kim and Trump in February 2019 failed to produce an agreement, nuclear diplomacy between the two countries has seen little progress, negatively affecting inter-Korean ties.

Cho Han-beom, a senior researcher of the Korea Institute for National Unification, similarly said that Kim is keeping the dialogue alive.

"Her requests insinuated that she could be a representative for talks with the U.S. or a special envoy to Washington," Cho said.

Following the DVD request, Pompeo said on July 15 that there is more discussion taking place between the U.S. and the North than publicly noticed and expressed hope they will have senior-level discussions before too long.

Cho said this year is the "golden time" to reach a nuclear agreement between the two sides ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

"The best scenario would be that Kim and Trump hold another summit and strike a nuclear deal," he said.

"If Trump wins reelection, he will not revoke the deal and a Joe Biden president is not likely to scrap it, either, given that his Democratic Party respects international agreements signed by previous administrations."

The current atmosphere is in favor of them holding talks.

In June, the North Korean leader suspended envisaged military actions against South Korea amid growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, sparked by the North's demolition of an inter-Korean liaison office in the border city of Gaeseong due to the South's "failure" to stop anti-North leaflets sent across the border by North Korean defectors and activists.

In addition, the South and the U.S. will scale down their combined military exercises later this month.

Despite possible talks between the U.S. and the North, it would be a daunting task for them to reach an accord, with the two countries unwilling to give what the other side wants.

"They're mixed. The mixed messaging is basically saying 'hey I'm here. I'm not ready to give you whatever you want, but still, you know, remind you that we are and at some point you have to deal with us," Andrew Kim said.



North Korea watchers believe Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is keeping the possibility of continued dialogue with the United States alive. / Korea Times file
North Korea watchers believe Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is keeping the possibility of continued dialogue with the United States alive. / Korea Times file

By Kang Seung-woo

Despite deadlocked nuclear negotiations between North Korea and the United States, Pyongyang has not fully ruled out the possibility of resuming talks with Washington ― in particular, ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, according to experts, Friday.

While Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, downplayed the possibility of her brother meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump again in a statement July 10, she unexpectedly requested a DVD of U.S. Independence Day celebrations, which hinted that the reclusive state was keeping their bilateral talks alive.

"She's saying that somebody comes to bring that tape to Pyongyang, and that's me. She's saying, invite me to United States right, that's sort of the way I looked at it," Andrew Kim, a former head of the CIA's Korea Mission Center, told Voice of America. While in office, he accompanied U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo on all four of his trips to Pyongyang in 2018.

"She opened the door right now ― they say this, they think the ball is in the American side. They're waiting. That's why since that message, she's not saying anything."

After the Hanoi summit between Kim and Trump in February 2019 failed to produce an agreement, nuclear diplomacy between the two countries has seen little progress, negatively affecting inter-Korean ties.

Cho Han-beom, a senior researcher of the Korea Institute for National Unification, similarly said that Kim is keeping the dialogue alive.

"Her requests insinuated that she could be a representative for talks with the U.S. or a special envoy to Washington," Cho said.

Following the DVD request, Pompeo said on July 15 that there is more discussion taking place between the U.S. and the North than publicly noticed and expressed hope they will have senior-level discussions before too long.

Cho said this year is the "golden time" to reach a nuclear agreement between the two sides ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

"The best scenario would be that Kim and Trump hold another summit and strike a nuclear deal," he said.

"If Trump wins reelection, he will not revoke the deal and a Joe Biden president is not likely to scrap it, either, given that his Democratic Party respects international agreements signed by previous administrations."

The current atmosphere is in favor of them holding talks.

In June, the North Korean leader suspended envisaged military actions against South Korea amid growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, sparked by the North's demolition of an inter-Korean liaison office in the border city of Gaeseong due to the South's "failure" to stop anti-North leaflets sent across the border by North Korean defectors and activists.

In addition, the South and the U.S. will scale down their combined military exercises later this month.

Despite possible talks between the U.S. and the North, it would be a daunting task for them to reach an accord, with the two countries unwilling to give what the other side wants.

"They're mixed. The mixed messaging is basically saying 'hey I'm here. I'm not ready to give you whatever you want, but still, you know, remind you that we are and at some point you have to deal with us," Andrew Kim said.



Kang Seung-woo ksw@koreatimes.co.kr

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