Sydney Seiler, the U.S. special envoy to the multilateral talks on North Korea’s denuclearization, met with senior South Korean officials on Monday in Seoul to discuss Pyongyang’s evolving nuclear program and ways to persuade it to come out for dialogue.
Sydney Seiler, the U.S. special envoy to the multilateral talks on North Korea’s denuclearization, speaks in a meeting with the press in Seoul. (Yonhap)
His meeting with Seoul officials came ahead of the trilateral talks among the nuclear envoys of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, which are slated to take place on Friday in Tokyo.
Seoul and its partners have been seen exploring ways to forge momentum to address Pyongyang’s nuclear issue, which was given fresh attention following the landmark deal earlier this month on Iran’s nuclear program.
Seiler first met with his South Korean counterpart Kim Gunn, director general for North Korean nuclear affairs at Seoul’s Foreign Ministry. Separately, he also met with Seoul’s chief nuclear envoy Hwang Joon-juk and Kwon Yong-woo, head of the ministry’s Korean Peninsula Peace Regime Bureau.
Describing his talks with South Korean officials as “fruitful,” Seiler stressed that the U.S. has always been open to dialogue with Pyongyang. He also pointed out that the recently clinched deal over Iran’s nuclear program demonstrates Washington’s flexibility that could also be exercised should the North choose a “different path.”
“Iran’s deal demonstrates the value and possibilities the negotiations bring. It demonstrates again our willingness when we have a willing counterpart, and it demonstrates our flexibility when the DPRK (North Korea) makes a decision and it wants to choose a different path,” he told reporters after his meetings with Seoul officials.
The agenda for the meetings was expected to include deterring North Korea’s potential provocations such as a long-range rocket launch. Observers believe that the North could set off “strategic saber-rattling” moves as it prepares to mark the 70th anniversary on Oct. 10 of the founding of its ruling Workers’ Party.
The meeting was also to touch on how Seoul, Washington and other concerned parties could work together to pressure the North to come to the bargaining table, and to curb its nuclear ambitions. The North recently claimed to have already entered the technical phase to “miniaturize and diversify” its nuclear arms.
Seoul officials say that the efforts to denuclearize the North are now at a crucial strategic “inflection point” given that the Iranian deal could create fresh momentum for the stalled nuclear negotiations, while the North’s possible provocations could also thwart the efforts.
Seoul, Washington and Tokyo are expected to coordinate their positions over how to pressure the North to come to the dialogue table during their three-way meeting on Friday. Kim, Seiler and their Japanese counterpart Shigeki Takizaki will represent each side at the meeting.
They are also likely to push for the so-called exploratory talks with the North during the ASEAN Regional Forum next month, which Pyongyang’s Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong is expected to attend.
Lowering the bar for the resumption of the six-party talks that involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia, Seoul has made the offer for the unconditional exploratory talks with the North. The North has rejected the overture.
By Song Sang-ho (email@example.com