North Korea called for the postponement of high-level talks with the United States in New York, Seoul's top diplomat said Thursday, Yonhap reports.
Speaking at a National Assembly session, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha cited consultations with Washington on the issue.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had planned to meet with Kim Yong-chol, a close aide to the North's leader Kim Jong-un, in the U.S. city on Thursday (local time).
But Pompeo's department announced Wednesday that the meeting will take place at a later date.
It ascribed the decision to a scheduling problem.
Asked about the matter by a lawmaker, Kang said, "The U.S. explained to us that it received a notification from the North Korean side to put off (the talks)."
The minister added she has yet to have phone talks with Pompeo to discuss the matter.
Before the abrupt U.S. announcement, however, Stephen Biegun, Washington's special representative for North Korea, talked with his South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon by phone.
Speculation is rampant about why this week's Pompeo-Kim meeting was cancelled.
Pyongyang may be unprepared to accept Washington's demand for additional steps toward denuclearization, which include presenting the list of its nuclear weapons and relevant facilities.
Some media raised the possibility that President Donald Trump might have rejected a request by Kim, vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee, for a separate meeting amid his busy schedule.
A State Department official dismissed speculation about a possible rift with Pyongyang.
Timing, timing. This has to do with timing as a matter," its deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said at a press briefing. "Schedules change. Schedules change all of the time in fact ... This is the case we're dealing with, purely a scheduling issue, and it's as simple as that."
Seoul's unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean ties, said it will implement a project to re-link and modernize railways crossing the demilitarized zone (DMZ) despite the delay in Pyongyang-Washington dialogue.
In their September summit, the leaders of the two Koreas agreed to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the project before the end of this year.
The two sides need to conduct a joint on-site inspection of the North's railroads.
Denuclearization talks between the North and the U.S. are related with inter-Korean cooperation to some extent, but there's no fixed sequencing, a ministry official told reporters on the condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministry said there will be no big impact to the Korean Peninsula issue from the outcome of the U.S. midterm elections, in which the Democrats regained control of the House, while the Republicans kept their grip on the Senate.
There has been bipartisan support (on Capitol Hill) for the South Korea-U.S. alliance and a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue," she said.
Source: Kazinform News Agency
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