South Korea’s top nuclear envoy is seeking to meet with his US counterpart as early as next week to discuss the launch of a “working group” aimed at coordinating their North Korea policy, according a local news report Wednesday.
South Korea's top nuclear envoy Lee Do-hoon (Yonhap)
Seoul’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, Lee Do-hoon, may visit Washington next week to meet with Stephen Biegun, the US special representative for North Korea, to finalize the creation of the dialogue channel, the report said, citing multiple sources.
The Foreign Ministry did not confirm the report as of Wednesday afternoon.
During Biegun’s visit to Seoul last month, the allies agreed to a working group to maintain close coordination on North Korea’s denuclearization, implementation of international sanctions against the North and inter-Korean cooperation.
A senior official from the Foreign Ministry earlier said that the working group would be launched in November and led by the top nuclear envoys of South Korea and the US.
The agreement on the working group came amid speculation of discord between Seoul and Washington over the pace of inter-Korean developments without tangible progress on Pyongyang’s denuclearization.
Lee and Biegun are also expected to discuss the prospect of high-level talks between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart Kim Yong-chol, which were postponed last week. The North asked for a delay of the meeting, citing hectic schedules.
The delay fueled speculation that differences between North Korea and the US over who should make a concession first to move forward on denuclearization talks are too big to be narrowed.
South Korea, which seeks to expand inter-Korean projects in tandem with progress on denuclearization talks, has expressed hope for the high-level meeting to be rescheduled soon for the two countries to continue negotiations.
Uriminzokkiri, the North’s propaganda website, blasted the US and South Korea on Wednesday for setting up the working group, calling it Washington’s “arrogant intervention” in inter-Korean relations and Seoul’s “shameful” act.
“The US’ arrogant act of creating a body to control and watch an improvement in North Korea-South Korea relations is drawing anger from people (of the Koreas,)” it said.
The problem lies with South Korean authorities’ “shameful act” of giving in to the US’ “arrogant” and “robbery-like” behavior, it added.