Pompeo’s meeting with North Korean counterpart called off at last minute

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo right and Kim Yong Chol a North Korean senior ruling party official and former intelligence chief arrive for a lunch at the Park Hwa Guest House in Pyongyang North Korea

The talks between President Donald Trump's top diplomat and the North Korean delegation, which had been due on Thursday, "will now take place at a later date", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

In a statement released at midnight, the department said the two sides "will reconvene when our respective schedules permit".

The State Department said early on Wednesday that the meeting had been postponed, but gave no reason, raising concerns that talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear arms could break down.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un walks with President Donald Trump, left, during a break in talks at their historic US-North Korea summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, June 12, 2018.

North Korea warned last week that it will consider reviving its nuclear weapons program if the United States fails to lift its crippling economic sanctions against the regime.

"The improvement of relations and sanctions are incompatible", said a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

On Sunday, Pompeo said he was "not worried" about the North Korean demands and insisted there would be "no economic relief until we have achieved our ultimate objective".

But Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP that the postponement was a bad sign.

"But I will say this, I will say this very simply - We are in no rush, the sanctions are on", he said.

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Pompeo has traveled four times this year to North Korea, for decades a United States pariah, in hopes of securing an accord.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they pose for a photo in Pyongyang, North Korea, Oct. 7, 2018. North Korea's propaganda services have not mentioned the meeting.

"You could have a situation that South Korea and North Korea come to some kind of agreement and then suddenly there's an expectation that we would fall into line with that we would be willing to put scarce budget dollars into helping North Korea economically, you know, without having laid the groundwork or gotten enough concessions to make that possible", Kenney said at an Asia Society event that discussed USA policy toward Asia after the midterm elections.

Pompeo's postponement of talks came amid emerging differences between Seoul and Washington, which stations 28,500 troops in the South to protect it from its nuclear-armed neighbour.

Before that he also called off the Singapore summit before putting it back on.

Trump told a White House news conference the change was "because of trips that are being made", but did not elaborate on these."We are going to make it ... another day", he said.

Kim Yong Chol is a general and former top intelligence chief.

Tensions between the USA and North Korea that spiked last year when Trump and Kim were trading insults and dire threats have ebbed this year, but the North has not taken irreversible steps to give up the nukes it spent decades making and which it views as key to its security.

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