Preparation underway for US-N. Korea working-level talks

By Park Han-na
  • Published : Jul 7, 2019 - 15:18
  • Updated : Jul 7, 2019 - 17:45

Top negotiators of South Korea and the US will meet in Germany this week in an apparent move to coordinate and discuss details of upcoming working-level talks between Washington and Pyongyang, aimed at the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that Lee Do-hoon, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, will visit Germany from Tuesday to Friday to meet with Ina Lepel, director general for Asia and the Pacific of the Federal Foreign Office, and discuss issues regarding the Korean Peninsula.

Lee Do-hoon, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, speaks with his US conterpart Stephen Beigun at the foreign ministry in Seoul, June 28. (Yonhap)

During the four-day trip, Lee will also meet with Stephen Biegun, US special representative for North Korea. The US Department of State announced that Biegun will be in Berlin on Wednesday and Thursday, following his visit to Brussels from Monday to Tuesday.

Lee and Bigun will assess the political situation following President Moon Jae-in, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom on June 30.

Trump, who became the first sitting US president to set foot in the North, has agreed to resume stalled nuclear talks with Kim.

Without elaborating on the agenda, the Foreign Ministry said the two envoys plan to “discuss and coordinate to make substantive progress for complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishment of a permanent peace regime.”

The meeting between Lee and Biegun comes as Washington and Pyongyang are expected to hold working-level meetings following Trump’s announcement that the two countries will resume consultation at the lower level as early as mid-July.

The date and venue of the meeting has not been publicly disclosed.

Biegun will lead the US nuclear negotiating team, while North Korea has reportedly picked Kim Myong-gil, a former ambassador to Vietnam, as the new chief nuclear envoy to replace Kim Hyok-chul, who is rumored to have been purged after the second Trump-Kim summit ended without a deal in Hanoi, Vietnam, in late February.

According to Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun on Saturday, Trump told the North Korean leader that Washington will take “appropriate measures” if Pyongyang proposes a more advanced deal than the one it had suggested in Hanoi, which had included the dismantlement of the North’s main Yongbyon nuclear facilities.

The US is considering offering the North economic assistance for humanitarian purposes and setting up liaison offices in Pyongyang and Washington as reciprocal steps, the paper said.

On the plane back home from Seoul last week, Beigun said the Trump administration seeks a complete freeze of the North’s nuclear and weapons of mass destruction programs as part of the denuclearization process, but it wants to keep sanctions in place in those phases, according to US media reports. 

By Park Han-na (