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US and North Korea to resume negotiations over denuclearisation

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The US and North Korea plan to resume negotiations over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme this weekend, in the first direct discussions over denuclearisation between the sides since the failed Hanoi summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un this year.

Choe Son Hui, Pyongyang’s first vice-minister of foreign affairs, said she hoped the exchange would “accelerate the positive development” of the relationship.

Mr Trump and Mr Kim last met briefly at the demilitarised zone dividing the Korean peninsula in late June, the first time a sitting US president had visited the line dividing North and South Korea. The encounter saw both sides pledge to resume talks within weeks but there has been little progress.

Mr Trump met Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, at the UN General Assembly in New York last month, rekindling hopes that the talks would resume. Seoul has been pushing for negotiations to restart and welcomed the plan to revive discussions. A spokeswoman for the presidential office said Seoul “is looking forward to seeing the actual progress toward complete denuclearisation and permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula at an early stage”.

Talks have stalled since the Hanoi summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim in February, their second face-to-face meeting after the pair held a historic meeting in Singapore last year.

North Korea said it was willing to restart talks with the US in early September, but hours later began testing weapons, which was described by analysts as a negotiating tactic.

Since May, Pyongyang has undertaken short-range missile and rocket tests, raising fears of a return to military provocation.

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The announcement comes against a backdrop of increasing scepticism about North Korea’s intentions.

Analysts said the two sides would struggle to work out a road map towards denuclearisation amid a lack of mutual trust.

“There are much lower expectations for North Korea’s denuclearisation now than last year as we are watching the same old movie again,” said Lee Seong-hyon, a researcher at the Sejong Institute, a think-tank.

“At the end of the day, the US and North Korea will face mutually irreconcilable differences in their road map towards denuclearisation. They still have the same old problem, which is a lack of trust in each other. They still struggle to hammer out a road map, haggling over who makes a concession first.”

Kim Jae-chun, a professor at Sogang University and a former government adviser, said the two sides were too far apart to reach a deal.

“The US wants to define denuclearisation and specify the scope of it even if it gets implemented step by step, but North Korea still finds it burdensome to draw a big picture. The two sides have too big differences of opinion over denuclearisation to narrow the gap.”

John Bolton, Mr Trump’s recently ousted national security adviser, said in a talk last month that he did not believe Pyongyang would willingly surrender its nuclear weapons.

Via Financial Times

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