Pompeo's canceled trip to DPRK hits office plan

The abrupt cancelation of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's trip to Democratic People's Republic of Korea is having an "effect" on a planned inter-Korean liaison office.

South Korea said yesterday the abrupt cancelation of United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is having an “effect” on a controversial inter-Korean liaison office it planned to open by this month.

US President Donald Trump abruptly canceled his top diplomat’s planned trip to the DPRK on Friday, publicly acknowledging for the first time that his effort to get Pyongyang to denuclearize had stalled since his summit with the its leader.

South Korea’s presidential Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said yesterday that the canceled visit “cannot be said to have zero effect” on the plan for the liaison office.

“We were thinking of the opening of the liaison office as part of a smooth series of schedules including Secretary of State Pompeo’s North Korea visit then the inter-Korean summit,” Kim said. “Now that a new situation has arisen, there is a need to inspect it again accordingly.”

South Korea has been building a liaison office just over the border in the DPRK, as part of efforts championed by the South’s President Moon Jae-in to improve ties between the two Koreas.

The office, which the South Korean government said it planned to open by August, had raised concern among opposition lawmakers, analysts and local media that the transfer of material for the office could violate UN and US sanctions against the DPRK.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman yesterday repeated its stance that all the material for the liaison office are for the office’s operation and the convenience of South Korean personnel, and does not give any economic gain to the DPRK.

The spokesman added the two Koreas continue to discuss matters such as the timing of the office’s opening, after agreeing to open it “soon.”

“This issue is not something that our government can decide on its own, but must be discussed with the North,” said Kim, the Blue House spokesman. “I understand that there hasn’t been official discussion on how the North sees such situational changes, changes in conditions.”

The DPRK’s state newspaper on Sunday accused the United States of “double-dealing” and “hatching a criminal plot” against Pyongyang, but did not mention Pompeo’s canceled visit.

Since the June summit, the two sides have struggled to narrow differences over the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program.

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