BEIJING – Thailand’s foreign minister said the North Korean government told him nuclear talks scheduled for this week will be postponed to mid- to late September, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported today.
Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon said Sunday that his North Korean counterpart, Paik Nam Sun, made the remark during a meeting in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, Xinhua reported. Kantathi was making an official visit to Pyongyang.
According to Kantathi, Paik blamed “lack of trust,” Xinhua said, without giving any details. Under North Korea’s secretive political system, such announcements often emerge secondhand through visiting diplomats.
Delegates to the fourth round of talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up nuclear development took a three-week break in early August and agreed to meet again this week.
However, according to Xinhua, Kantathi said Paik told him, “the talks will have to be postponed at least to mid-September or late September.”
Also Monday, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said host China has indicated to Seoul that a resumption of the talks this week is unlikely.
“Our position is that it would be difficult (to restart the talks) within this week,” said ministry spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung. “The host has to notify us of when they’re going to hold the talks, but there has been no notification yet.”
The spokesman said he expects to learn North Korea’s position when China’s chief nuclear negotiator, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, returns Tuesday from a trip to North Korea.
The dispute erupted in late 2002 when the United States said the North admitted operating a secret nuclear program in violation of a 1994 commitment under which it received energy aid in exchange for abandoning nuclear development.
The negotiators called for the recess in early August after they deadlocked over the North’s insistence on retaining the right to operate a nuclear reactor for power generation.
The United States has expressed skepticism about that, pointing to the North’s production of bomb fuel using another reactor supposedly built for research.
The talks – which include the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia – were suspended after the countries failed to agree on a basic statement of principles to guide future discussions.