US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun sits at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday. Lee Jin-man/ Reuters
A US special envoy to North Korea said on Friday that Washington was ready to hold constructive talks with Pyongyang to follow through on a denuclearisation agreement reached by the two countries last year, South Korea’s foreign ministry said.
Stephen Biegun told his South Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon, that Washington wanted to make “simultaneous, parallel” progress on the agreement reached at a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last year, the ministry said in a statement.
Both sides agreed to establish new relations and work towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
But negotiations have stalled since a second summit in Vietnam in February collapsed as both sides failed to taper differences between US calls for denuclearisation and North Korean demands for sanctions relief.
The envoys met ahead of Trump’s visit to South Korea this weekend, during which Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are expected to discuss ways to kick-start the stalled dialogue with the North.
North Korea has pursued nuclear and missile programmes for years in defiance of UN Security Council and US sanctions.
“Biegun said the upcoming summit would provide a crucial chance to foster peace and prosperity of the Korean peninsula,” the ministry said.
Lee offered positive views on a recent cordial exchange of letters between Trump and Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s summit with Kim early this year.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised hopes for a revival of talks after the letters, while Xi told Moon on Thursday that Kim’s resolve for denuclearisation and dialogue remained unchanged.
Moon has said Washington was in behind-the-scenes talks with Pyongyang over a possible third summit and had proposed a fresh round of talks. But the North said on Thursday that the United States had become “more and more desperate in its hostile acts” even as it spoke of dialogue.
Working towards the denuclearisation of the “Korean peninsula” is also a grey area which, by North Korea’s reckoning, includes the regional US nuclear umbrella protecting Japan and South Korea. The United States only wants North Korea to denuclearise.
Nuclear discussions between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since a second summit in Hanoi in February ended without an agreement over differences on the extent of denuclearisation
The launch came after North Korea carried out a military drill and fired multiple projectiles on Saturday, with at least one believed to be a short-range missile.
Pyongyang has been steadily developing its weapons programme amid a standoff over talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for US sanctions relief.
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