US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said Wednesday that the US will continue its efforts to hold denuclearization talks with the North until the matter is resolved, dismissing the year-end deadline set by the regime.
“We do not have a year-end deadline. ... That’s an artificial deadline set by the North Koreans, and unfortunately it’s a deadline that they’ve set upon themselves,” Biegun said before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a confirmation hearing on his nomination as deputy secretary of state.
n this file photo taken on Feb. 9, 2019 US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun listens to South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha during their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul. (AFP-Yonhap)
In April, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un set a year-end deadline for a “bold decision” by the US, following the collapse of his summit with US President Donald Trump in February.
South Korea’s Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, who is in the US to discuss inter-Korean issues and the North’s denuclearization, speculated that more North Korea-US talks would take place before the end of the year.
“As the North continues to emphasize its year-end deadline, it is highly likely that there will be one or two more opportunities,” he said in a keynote address at a seminar held at the US Institute of Peace in Washington on Wednesday.
According to diplomatic sources, talks between the North and the US have been under way through various channels, since their working-level nuclear talks in Sweden between officials from Pyongyang and Washington have broken off in early October.
While Pyongyang and Washington are seeking to boost their bargaining power before scheduling their next round of working-level talks, Seoul is eyeing the resumption of Kumgangsan tourism, an inter-Korean cooperation project, to find a way to put inter-Korean relations back on track and help the denuclearization talks move forward.
During the visit, Kim met with Biegun to discuss the meaning of the tourism project to the North’s scenic mountain and the direction of its development in the future.
“There are room for independent roles that the inter-Korean relationship must realize, if a virtuous cycle in the triangular relationship of South and North Korea and the US is to be driven forward,” he said in the same speech.
By Park Han-na (firstname.lastname@example.org)