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Top S. Korean, US nuclear envoys stress need to resume dialogue with NK

Stephen Biegun (left) and Lee Do-hoon talk to reporters after their meeting held in Seoul in July. (Yonhap)
Stephen Biegun (left) and Lee Do-hoon talk to reporters after their meeting held in Seoul in July. (Yonhap)

Seoul and Washington’s top nuclear envoys spoke on the phone Wednesday, reiterating the need to resume the stalled dialogue with Pyongyang as soon as possible.

Lee Do-hoon, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, and his US counterpart -- Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who doubles as Washington’s chief nuclear envoy -- shared their assessment of the situation on the Korean Peninsula and reaffirmed the need for an early resumption of talks with Pyongyang to make progress in achieving complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, the Foreign Ministry said.

“The two sides consulted on ways to create conditions to push for negotiations,” the ministry said in a statement. “Korea and the US agreed to closely communicate and cooperate on North Korea’s nuclear (programs) and other issues bilaterally and multilaterally by actively utilizing planned international diplomatic events.”

The US-North Korea talks aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear programs have been at a standstill since last year, when the summit in Vietnam between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended without a deal. The two sides failed to narrow their differences over the extent of sanctions relief that should be provided in exchange for the North giving up its nuclear capabilities. A subsequent working-level meeting in October also fell apart.

In July, Biegun visited Seoul expressing Washington’s resolve to restart dialogue with the communist regime, but no meaningful progress has been made to bring Pyongyang back to the table.

On Wednesday, Biegun also held his first phone talks with Seoul’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun, who was appointed last month.

During the talks, Biegun congratulated Choi on his new post and expressed hope that the two countries would continue to cooperate closely for the benefit of the alliance.

Choi, in response, called for the two sides to continue communicating transparently, in order to “stably” deal with pending bilateral issues.

The two vowed to meet in person at the earliest possible date to discuss bilateral and regional issues.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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