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US ready for talks with N. Korea, but not in a hurry

The US State Department said Wednesday that it is ready to hold working-level talks with North Korea on relinquishing its nuclear arsenal after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a letter to US President Donald Trump, the first direct contact between the two leaders in months.

During a press briefing, US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus reaffirmed that the country is seeking to achieve lasting peace and the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a Polish-American reception at the White House in Washington, DC. (UPI-Yonhap)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a Polish-American reception at the White House in Washington, DC. (UPI-Yonhap)

“Here at the State Department we are ready and willing to continue engagement on working-level negotiations with the North Koreans,” she said.

On Wednesday, Trump touted his relationship with Kim as “very good,” despite what he called a “rough” start when Trump took office.

“I think we’re going to do very well with North Korea over a period of time. I’m in no rush. The sanctions are on,” Trump said during a news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

The US president said Tuesday that he had received a new “beautiful” letter from the North’s leader.

Kim has sent eight letters to Trump since June last year, a week before their historic summit in Singapore. The seventh letter was delivered by Kim Yong-chol, then vice chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, who made a two-day visit to Washington in January.

After the collapse of the two leaders’ nuclear talks in Hanoi in February, they said the door for dialogue remained open. However, practical actions have not been forthcoming.

“And again, we hope that the commitments that we made one year ago will come to fruition, and we’re certainly ready on the working level to do that. And of course, while that happens, while we work towards that, economic sanctions do remain in effect,” Ortagus said.

Meanwhile, US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun held a closed-door meeting Wednesday with envoys from the 15 Security Council member nations at the US mission to the UN and discussed recent developments involving North Korea.

Topics at the meeting included this week’s letter from the North Korean leader to the US president, according to Yonhap.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Lee Do-hoon, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, might meet with Biegun in Washington as the two envoys are set to speak at a conference there next Wednesday.

By Park Han-na and news reports (