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Status quo likely in N. Korea nuclear talks: report

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at a fertilizer factory on May 1, 2020. (Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at a fertilizer factory on May 1, 2020. (Yonhap)
Days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un resurfaced in public, ending an absence that had triggered health rumors, the Wall Street Journal said Monday that Pyongyang’s denuclearization talks are unlikely to see progress, at least not ahead of the US presidential election in November.

Kim’s return reaffirmed the status quo, meaning the isolated country would not reorient its uncompromising approach to nuclear talks or change its pattern of sporadic weapons tests, according to the WSJ.

“The age of talking is kind of over,” Olivia Enos, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center in Washington, told the WSJ. “It’s pretty unlikely there will be any summit sooner than November.”

The US has reported the world’s largest number of novel coronavirus infections and President Trump is seen as preoccupied with countering the global disease and taking care of his reelection campaign. Fresh engagement with Kim is not a top priority.

The bilateral nuclear talks have been in limbo since October last year when Washington and Pyongyang failed to narrow their differences over prioritizing steps to dismantling the North’s nuclear arsenal.

But, if Trump is polling behind his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump could possibly reach out to Kim for a foreign policy victory to impress voters, the WSJ said, citing a North Korean specialist.

Kim would also be interested in striking a deal with Trump before a leadership change in the White House, as Biden had publicly said he would not meet Kim unconditionally, unlike Trump, the newspaper added.

Trump often bragged about his claimed success in engaging the reclusive North, touting that he had managed to bring North Korea to no longer perform nuclear weapons tests or intercontinental ballistic missile launches.

But many experts said Kim was motivated to do just that so as not to further provoke Washington and alienate its biggest ally Beijing. They said Kim would not back away from his demand that the US lift UN sanctions first to resume the stalled nuclear talks.

By Choi Si-young (