SEOUL (AP) – South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers in a private briefing on Tuesday (Sept 24) that nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea will likely resume within two to three weeks, according to one of the lawmakers who attended the session.
The National Intelligence Service (NIS) gave its assessment on the prospect for a resumption of nuclear diplomacy, hours after President Donald Trump said another meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “could happen soon”.
Kim Min-ki, one of the lawmakers who attended the NIS briefing, quoted the spy service as saying there is “a high possibility for working-level talks (between the US and North Korea) to restart within two to three weeks”.
The lawmaker said the NIS also told them that another Trump-Kim summit could happen this year if the two countries make progress in those working-level nuclear negotiations.
Calls to the NIS seeking confirmation of the contents of the briefing weren’t immediately answered. The NIS typically doesn’t comment on the contents of closed-door briefings it provides to lawmakers.
US-led diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the North Korean nuclear crisis have largely remained stalled since the second Trump-Kim summit in Vietnam in February ended without any agreement due to squabbling over US-led economic sanctions on North Korea. The two leaders held a brief, impromptu meeting at a Korean border village in late June and agreed to resume talks.
In recent month, North Korea carried out a series of short-range missile and other weapons tests in an apparent bid to apply pressure on Washington and increase its leverage ahead in future talks. Kim has demanded that Trump come up with mutually acceptable proposals to salvage diplomacy by the end of December.
Trump has downplayed the significance of the recent North Korean weapons launches and said he is maintaining good relations with Kim.
He provided few details in his comments on Monday that another meeting with Kim “could happen soon”. He spoke in response to a question as he arrived at the United Nations in New York.
On the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly meeting on Monday, Trump met South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Moon’s office said the two leaders exchanged opinions on how to produce substantial progress in the working-level US-North Korea talks and reaffirmed their resolve to improve ties with North Korea and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.
During Tuesday’s NIS briefing, the South Korean spy service also predicted the North Korean leader could visit China again to discuss the future of nuclear diplomacy with his country’s biggest ally and aid provider, according to Lee Eun-jae, another lawmaker who was present at the briefing.
After entering talks with Trump last year, Kim has travelled to China four times to consult with President Xi Jinping. Xi went to Pyongyang in June, and some experts have speculated Kim will make a reciprocal trip to Beijing this year.
Lee cited the NIS as saying Kim may be able to attend a regional forum scheduled to take place in South Korea in November, depending on what progress is made in North Korea-US diplomacy.
After his summit with Kim in Pyongyang last September, Moon said Kim had promised to make a return trip to Seoul by the end of December 2018 and become the first North Korean leader to do so since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.