SEOUL/WASHINGTON, July 18 (Yonhap) -- Working-level nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea will likely resume only after the planned joint military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. are over, a former unification minister has said.
Jeong Se-hyun made the remark during a meeting with reporters on Wednesday, following Pyongyang's warning earlier this week that it will decide whether to open the working-level talks after "keeping watch over the U.S. move," criticizing the allies' joint military exercises slated for next month.
Jeong, who served as the unification minister from 2002 to 2004, said the North wouldn't want to lose face by immediately sitting down face to face with the U.S. when it has hinted at a boycott of the working-level meeting over the drills.
"It seems like we don't have the intention to reduce (the joint drills), so I guess the working-level negotiations will be held at least after the drills," Jeong said in Washington.
The resumption of working-level talks between the two countries was agreed by U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their surprise meeting at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom on June 30.
The encounter was Trump and Kim's first meeting since their highly anticipated second summit in Hanoi ended without a deal in February. Since the summit breakdown, the nuclear negotiations have been suspended.
After the meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the talks are expected to resume in mid-July.
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