MOSCOW, May 16. /TASS/. North Korea and the United States are conducting backstage bargaining with Pyongyang showing no intention to backtrack, the director of Russia’s Asian Strategies Center at the Russian Economics Institute under the Academy of Sciences, Georgy Toloraya, said in the wake of North Korea’s refusal to hold high level talks with South Korea, originally scheduled for May 16.
"Backstage bargaining between the Americans and North Koreans is in progress. North Korea uses the available arguments in order to gain a firmer foothold at the talks," he believes.
"Possibly the United States has put forward some unacceptable conditions, to which North Korea made a corresponding response using the military exercises as a pretext. The real subject matter of bargaining remains unknown," Toloraya said.
The news agency Yonhap said earlier the North Korean authorities had canceled talks with South Korea in view of the US-South Korean military exercise. Also, they called in question a US-North Korean summit.
The two-week Max Thunder exercise began on Friday, with 100 military planes, including strategic bombers taking part. South Korea and the United States have held the exercise twice a year starting from 2009.
The current situation as it is, negotiations are not very necessary, Toloraya believes.
"The North Koreans will agree to negotiate only on their own terms. A meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will largely depend on how the situation in the region will develop," he said.
"As follows from the US Department of State’s reaction, the news the high level talks with the South Koreans have been canceled has had a stunning effect on the Americans, who wish to go ahead with the negotiations. Possibly, the North Koreans will manage to attain their aims. It depends on what they will agree on. The work is in progress, both parties are moving on towards this goal, but everything looks not easy at all," Toloraya said.
A North Korean-US summit is to be held in Singapore on June 12.
Gesture of goodwill
On April 12, the North Korean Foreign Ministry declared that the Punggye-ri nuclear test site would be closed down in a public ceremony between May 23 and 25.
"The test site’s closedown is a gesture of goodwill by North Korea," Toloraya said.
He did not rule out, though, that amid the latest developments (the US-South Korean exercise - TASS) the closedown ceremony may be canceled.
"It’s never too late to hand a prize. Possibly, the closedown ceremony may be called off," Toloraya concluded.
The agreement to close the Punggye-ri nuclear test site was achieved when South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met for talks in Panmunjom on April 27.