US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has abruptly canceled plans to meet a top official from North Korea in New York, throwing stalemated diplomacy over the North’s nuclear weapons into further uncertainty.
The US State Department said in a short statement Wednesday that Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol would meet later “when our respective schedules permit.” It offered no reason for the cancellation.
The talks between the top US diplomat and the North Korean delegation, which had been due on Thursday, "will now take place at a later date," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.
"We will reconvene when our respective schedules permit," she added in a statement.
The State Department had just one day earlier confirmed that Pompeo would meet in New York with Kim to discuss progress toward a denuclearization pact and to work to arrange a second summit following landmark talks between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June.
Trump and Kim pledged to work toward denuclearization at the meeting, but the agreement was short on specifics.
Negotiations have made little headway since, with the North falling short of US demands for irreversible moves to abandon a weapons program that potentially threatens the United States.
Pompeo has traveled four times this year to North Korea in hopes of securing an accord. The diplomacy comes a year after fears mounted of war, with Trump threatening "fire and fury" after Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests.
News of the postponement came after North Korea’s Foreign Ministry criticized the US on Friday for its continued support of sanctions and hinted it may resume nuclear development.
Members of Trump’s Republican Party lost their majority in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday after the Democrats rode a wave of dissatisfaction with his presidency at US mid-term congressional elections.
Some analysts suggest a domestically weakened Trump may impact his foreign policy and test his North Korean diplomatic gambit.
Democrats say they are determined to obtain more information about meetings between Trump and Pompeo and Kim, worried that Trump is so eager to make a “great deal” that he will give Kim too much with little in return.
North Korea has for years pursued nuclear and missile programs in defiance of UN Security Council and US resolutions but the bellicose rhetoric from both the North and Trump has eased this year.
The UN Security Council has unanimously imposed several rounds of tough sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in an attempt to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
North Korean authorities have complained about continued US and international sanctions on their country, calling them a source of mistrust. They have also denounced what they have called "gangster-like behavior" by the US.