October 5, 2019

The United States rebooted discussions on two crucial geopolitical fronts this week.

First, U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with the Taliban in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Friday for the first time since President Trump declared peace negotiations to end the 18-year conflict in Afghanistan "dead" in September. Few details have been released about the meeting, which was described as informal, but there reportedly has not yet been a resumption of peace talks.

Meanwhile, the State Department was less secretive on the North Korea front. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed Saturday that officials from the U.S. and North Korean officials arrived in Stockholm, Sweden, to hold talks about Pyongyang's denuclearization process after the negotiations between the two sides broke down in February. North Korea had announced earlier this week they were ready to resume talks; one day later it fired an unidentified projectile into the sea.

Pompeo said it's too early to know if the talks yielded anything substantial, but added that North Korea "came with spirit and willingness to move forward" in the negotiations. Tim O'Donnell

December 17, 2018

Another round of U.S.-Taliban peace talks began Monday with the participation of delegates from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the negotiations' host, the United Arab Emirates. Their aim is further progress toward ending the United States' 17-year war in Afghanistan, America's longest conflict.

Officials representing the Afghan government are in the UAE but will not join in the talks, as the Taliban has to date insisted on negotiations with Washington alone. The Saudi and Emirati representatives are expected to help push the Taliban toward new concessions, potentially including future inclusion of Afghan state officials.

Diplomatic contact between the United States and the Taliban has increased since the appointment of Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad earlier this year. Among the issues under consideration are prisoner release and the extent of long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after hostilities have ceased. Bonnie Kristian

October 13, 2018

The State Department's special adviser for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, met with representatives of the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, on Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported and the Taliban confirmed to Al Jazeera Saturday. Neither the State Department nor the Afghan government would comment on the talks.

The specific topic of conversation is unknown, but this is reportedly the second time the two sides have met directly this year. "Khalilzad held a number of meetings with a wide range of stakeholders as part of his trip to explore how best to reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan," a State Department official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The Trump administration is seeking a diplomatic solution to the United States' 17-year conflict in Afghanistan. When he was appointed last month, Khalilzad's responsibilities were described as "developing the opportunities to get the Afghans and the Taliban to come to a reconciliation."

Read here at The Week why diplomacy may be the only realistic solution to America's longest war. Bonnie Kristian

October 7, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday touted the success of his trip to Pyongyang to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"We had a great, great visit this morning. President Trump sends his regards. And we had a very successful morning, so thank you," Pompeo said through a translator after a two-hour meeting followed by a lunch. Kim responded in kind, declaring "a very nice day that promises a good future for both countries."

Pompeo's last trip to North Korea was in July, and Kim's regime denounced his "gangster-like demands" after he left. This time was "better than the last time," an unnamed State Department official told Reuters, but denuclearization negotiations still have a long way to go.

After seeing Kim, Pompeo traveled to Seoul to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. He previously visited Japan on Saturday and will head to Beijing Monday to complete this Asian tour. Bonnie Kristian

September 16, 2018

South Korean President Moon Jae-in will travel to Pyongyang Tuesday for his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018.

Moon's trip will be the first time a South Korean president has visited the North's capital city in more than a decade, and the meeting is expected to be a landmark moment for both Moon's presidency and inter-Korean relations. "Depending on what the government's goal from the summit is, it could make or break his presidency," Lee Eun-young of the Korea Public Opinion Lab told Bloomberg.

These overtures come as U.S.-North Korean diplomacy has reached a lull, but Moon's administration has argued building positive relations will "provide North Korea with all the support and encouragement to make the right choices for itself."

"We will not let this heartfelt opportunity slip through," said South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo on Thursday. "Returning to our 70-year history of conflict and hatred is not an option." Bonnie Kristian

July 7, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo completed his visit to North Korea Saturday without having met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Nevertheless, Pompeo spoke optimistically of the trip, during which he negotiated with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol.

"I think we made progress in every element of our discussions," Pompeo told American reporters who accompanied him to Pyongyang. "These are complicated issues but we made progress on almost all of the central issues. Some places a great deal of progress; other places there's still more work to be done."

Further U.S.-North Korea talks about Pyongyang's denuclearization and the repatriation of U.S. remains from the Korean War are being planned. This week's visit began amid reports citing U.S. intelligence agents who reportedly say North Korea is concealing parts of its nuclear program, contrary to its promise of complete denuclearization. Bonnie Kristian

June 9, 2018

World leaders at the G7 summit in Quebec maintained a cordial tone in public statements Friday despite deep disagreement over trade policy sparked by President Trump's recent imposition of steep steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico, and the European Union.

The U.S. and EU will begin a new dialogue on trade this month, France announced after Trump's meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron. "Something's going to happen. I think it will be very positive," Trump said of the plan, affirming that he and Macron continue to have "a great relationship."

Trump made a late arrival to the summit Friday and is leaving early Saturday. On Twitter before arriving in Canada, the president wrote that he planned to focus on "the long time unfair trade practiced against the United States" at the G7 event, and that this plus his summit with North Korea on Tuesday would limit his ability to speak on the "Russian Witch Hunt Hoax" in the near future. Bonnie Kristian

June 2, 2018

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross arrived in Beijing Saturday for weekend talks with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Beijing's chief representative in trade negotiations. Ross is expected to push China to make good on its recent pledge to "significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services," with an aim of reducing the U.S. trade deficit to China from $375 billion to $175 billion annually by 2020.

The trip comes just one day after the Trump administration imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on U.S. allies Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, and strengthening trade ties with China could offset the economic isolation the tariffs may produce.

"I actually feel a little sorry for Secretary Ross," Phil Levy, formerly a senior George W. Bush administration trade adviser, told Bloomberg. "You don't have much consistency coming out of this president, so it's uncertain how much confidence Secretary Ross can have, or the Chinese can have, that whatever they work out will actually amount to anything." Bonnie Kristian

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