WASHINGTON/SEOUL -- US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday named Ford Vice President Stephen Biegun as US special representative for North Korea.
The appointment comes at a critical time in US-North Korea relations as the two sides negotiate the details of a denuclearization agreement reached by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at their June summit in Singapore.
Pompeo said he and Biegun will travel to North Korea next week to continue talks with Pyongyang.
"Steve will direct US policy towards North Korea and lead our efforts to achieve President Trump's goal of the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, as agreed to by Chairman Kim Jong-un," Pompeo said at the State Department, with Biegun at his side. "He and I will be traveling to North Korea next week to make further diplomatic progress towards our objective."
Biegun worked from 2001-2003 as the executive secretary on the White House National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration. He has also served as a foreign policy adviser to members of Congress, including to former Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bill Frist.
"Steve has had extensive career in foreign policy and in tough negotiating settings as well," Pompeo said, adding that as vice president of international government affairs for Ford Motor, Biegun "closely engaged foreign governments to advance Ford's goals all around the world."
Pompeo said Biegun "will now employ the same skill and dedication on behalf of the American people to make sure that their interests are well served in respect to North Korea."
"The issues are tough, and they will be tough to resolve," Biegun said. "But the president has created an opening, and it's one that we must take by seizing every possible opportunity to realize the vision for a peaceful future for the people of North Korea.
"This begins with the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea as agreed by Chairman Kim Jong-un at the summit with President Trump in Singapore," he added.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris voiced optimism that Biegun will do his job well.
"With regard to Mr. Biegun, his record is impressive. I do not know him personally, but he has an impressive record," Harris said during a diplomatic meeting in Seoul.
"I am optimistic he will do good work that the secretary has asked him to do," he added.
South Korea's foreign ministry welcomed Biegun's appointment.
"(We) expect Vice President Biegun to carry out his mission greatly based on the expertise in the realm of national security that he built while playing such roles as the executive secretary of the National Security Council and national security advisor to a US senator," the ministry said in a press release.
Biegun is filling a vacancy left by the retirement of Joseph Yun in March.
Earlier Thursday, Ford announced the new representative's retirement as vice president.