US and foreign sources close to the talks paint a picture that’s starkly different from the image President Donald Trump sought to convey Wednesday, when he told reporters the administration is “very happy with how it’s going with North Korea. We think it’s going fine.”
Trump had been asked about the administration’s announcement, in the middle of the night as Tuesday’s midterm elections results were coming in, that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Thursday meeting with a key aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had been postponed.
“We’re very happy with how it’s going with North Korea. We think it’s going fine. We’re in no rush. We’re in no hurry,” Trump told reporters at a White House press conference. “The sanctions are on. The missiles have stopped. The rockets have stopped. The hostages are home. The great heroes are home.”
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told lawmakers in Seoul Tuesday that she was told the North Koreans asked the US to postpone the talks, citing their busy schedules. A senior US official told CNN the North Korean delegation called Tuesday to postpone the meeting, but did not offer a clear explanation.
Another source familiar with the US-North Korea talks and familiar with North Korean thinking said Pyongyang canceled because it came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to get anywhere with working level talks — either through the Washington’s special representative for North Korea, Stephen E. Biegun, or through Pompeo himself.
US military officials, foreign diplomats and sources familiar with developments say the two sides are locked in a standoff over who will make concessions first, that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is “really angry” about the US refusal to offer sanctions relief and that personal friction between US and North Korean negotiators may be slowing progress.