Seoul steps up efforts to facilitate Washington-Pyongyang talks

By Ock Hyun-ju
  • Published : Jul 22, 2018 - 18:12
  • Updated : Jul 22, 2018 - 18:12

South Korea’s presidential security adviser Chung Eui-yong returned to Seoul on Sunday after a two-day visit to the US, as South Korea seeks to propel denuclearization talks between the US and North Korea. 

Chung Eui-yong (Yonhap)

Chung said he had “very helpful” consultations with his American counterpart John Bolton to successfully and rapidly push ahead with denuclearization negotiations between North Korea and the US.

“We reaffirmed that settling peace on the Korean Peninsula through complete denuclearization is a shared goal of South Korea and the US. To achieve the goal, we agreed to continue to share relevant information and maintain close coordination based on firm alliance between South Korea and the US,” Chung told reporters upon his arrival at Incheon Airport.

Chung did not answer questions as to whether he and Bolton had discussed declaring an end to the Korean War.

Last week, Seoul’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha did not rule out the possibility of a trilateral summit among leaders of the two Koreas and US at the United Nations General Assembly in September, where they could declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War.

During his talks with Bolton, Chung might have discussed bringing a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War with their counterparts -- one of the things demanded by North Korea to guarantee its regime security.

North Korea views ending the war as the first step to easing tensions and building a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and South Korea has pushed for a formal end to the Korean War, which was halted through an armistice and has left the Koreas technically at war. The US, however, appears to be reluctant to do so until the North takes more concrete steps to dismantle its nuclear arsenal, in the face of growing skepticism at home over the North’s willingness to denuclearize.

Asked whether Chung and Bolton talked about North Korean coal shipped to South Korean ports possibly in violation of the UN sanctions, Chung briefly said, “We did not talk about it.”

His visit came amid reports that two ships carried North Korean coal to South Korean ports in October last year in violation of United Nations sanctions and had avoided punishment. The South Korean government said it is still investigating the case.

South Korea’s top diplomat also met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the South Korean mission to the UN in New York on Friday before jointly briefing representatives from the 15 member states of the UN Security Council on the latest developments regarding North Korea.

Kang and Pompeo reportedly urged UN member-states to keep tough economic sanctions fully in place on North Korea and maintain pressure on the North until it dismantles its nuclear weapons program.

Kang’s meeting with Pompeo came less than two weeks after the top diplomats of South Korea, the US and Japan held a three-way meeting in Tokyo, at which Pompeo shared the outcome of his talks with North Korean officials in Pyongyang earlier this month.

Seoul’s ramped-up efforts to facilitate talks between Washington and Pyongyang come amid worries over a lack of immediate progress on the North’s denuclearization.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed on the goal of “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but the US has been seen struggling to make progress on holding Pyongyang to that agreement.

Pompeo made a trip to Pyongyang to draw detailed steps for the North’s denuclearization, but was criticized for coming back empty-handed. After he left Pyongyang, the North blasted the US for making “unilateral, gangster-like demands.”

The US is seen as backing away from calling for a quick, complete denuclearization of the North. Trump recently said there is “no rush” and “no time limit,” triggering concerns that denuclearization process could be drawn out.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in weighed in, saying during his Singapore visit on July 13 that the leaders of the US and North may face “grave judgment” from the international community should they fail to deliver on their summit agreement.