North Korea and the US have agreed to resume nuclear negotiations on Saturday following a monthslong stalemate over withdrawal of sanctions in exchange for disarmament, a senior North Korean diplomat said Tuesday. Choe Son Hui, North Korea's first vice minister of foreign affairs, said the two nations will have preliminary contact on Friday before holding working-level talks on Saturday, per the AP. In a statement from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, Choe expressed optimism over the meeting's outcome but didn't say where it would take place. "It is my expectation that the working-level negotiations would accelerate the positive development of the [North Korean]-US relations," Choe said. Nuclear negotiations have been at a standstill for months following a February summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Those talks broke down after the US side rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for partially surrendering its nuclear capabilities. North Korea followed the summit with belligerent rhetoric and a slew of short-range weapons tests that were widely seen as an attempt to gain leverage ahead of a possible resumption of negotiations. North Korea says it will never unilaterally surrender its nuclear weapons and missiles and insists that US-led sanctions against it should be lifted first before any progress in negotiations. The Trump administration has vowed to maintain robust economic pressure until the North takes real steps toward fully and verifiably relinquishing its nuclear program. There are doubts about whether Kim would ever voluntarily deal away an arsenal he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.
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