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N. Korea’s seasoned negotiator responds quickly to Trump’s ‘new method’

Kim Myong-gil, who recently released a statement confirming that he is the head of the North Korean delegation for the envisioned working-level negotiations with the United States, is known to be a US expert.

Having participated in various levels of nuclear weapons negotiations with the US since the 1990s, Kim may be able to bring about a more productive outcome for North Korea in the upcoming denuclearization negotiations, experts here say.

Kim Myoung-gil (Yonhap)
Kim Myoung-gil (Yonhap)

Amid speculations that Kim would be the counterpart of US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun in the working-level negotiations pledged by the leaders of the US and North Korea at the end of June, Kim publicly confirmed his role Friday.

Calling himself the “chief delegate” of the working-level talks, Kim welcomed US President Donald Trump’s decision to replace John Bolton, a former US national security adviser.

“I, as the chief delegate of the DPRK side to the DPRK-US working-level negotiations, would like to welcome the wise political decision of President Trump to approach the DPRK-US relations from a more practical point of view now that a nasty trouble-maker who used to face everything out of his anachronistic way of thinking has disappeared from the US administration,” Kim said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency. DPRK refers to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Born in 1959, Kim graduated from Kim Il-sung University and entered the North’s Foreign Ministry in 1982, according to the North Korea Information Portal operated by South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

First assigned to the embassy in Jamaica, Kim began building his career with issues related to the US in the 1990s. While serving in the Foreign Ministry’s American Affairs Bureau, Kim participated in the Agreed Framework negotiations. He also participated at the six-party talks in the mid-2000s, and was sent to the UN Mission in New York, according to 38 North, a US-based website specializing in North Korea affairs.

Before serving as North Korea’s ambassador to Vietnam from 2015 to 2019, Kim held a senior-level position equivalent to director-general at the Foreign Ministry.

While it is difficult to predict the outcome of the upcoming working-level talks, experts say Kim would be a very competent negotiator.

“Considering his past positions, he is expected to have a great understanding of US-North Korea issues, and would be skilled in negotiations,” Hong Min, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification, told The Korea Herald.

According to Hong, Kim would be better than Kim Yong-chol, who has been North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator, the counterpart of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“Unlike Kim Yong-chol who appeared somewhat clumsy, I think Kim Myong-gil will bring a more productive result. But the negotiation will not be easy,” Hong added.

Kim’s statement on Friday also appears to be a quick response to the US.

In the statement, Kim mentioned Trump’s remarks on Wednesday suggesting reviewing a “new method” in dealing with Pyongyang.

While Kim said he is not quite sure what Trump means by a “new method,” he said it seems to mean a “step-by-step” solution, the method that Pyongyang has been demanding.

The denuclearization negotiations between the US and North Korea have faltered, as the two sides have failed to reduce their differences. Washington wants Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons first, while the communist regime seeks incremental negotiations with corresponding benefits to follow its denuclearization actions.

By Jo He-rim (
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