US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who doubles as Washington’s point man on North Korea, stressed close bilateral cooperation with Seoul as he reflected over the past years of nuclear diplomacy with North Korea, while meeting senior officials in South Korea on Wednesday.
Biegun arrived here Tuesday for a four-day trip -- most likely his last visit to Seoul as the No. 2 American diplomat and the US special representative for North Korea, as US President Donald Trump’s term comes to an end in January.
“Our work together over the 2 1/2 years is a story of leadership of President Moon, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un, the leaders willing to step outside the expected norms through leader-level engagement and predictable behaviors of the past and try to advance a bold new vision through the leader-level engagement, and one that we are still very much working on and the one we are not done with,” Biegun said at the start of the meeting with Seoul’s nuclear envoy, Lee Do-hoon, held at the ministry in central Seoul.
“But it’s also a story of two allies, the United States and the Republic of Korea, who for 70 years have worked side by side to advance peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and hope to generously extend that prosperity and stability to the North,” he said.
Lee reflected on the situation on the Korean Peninsula as a “roller-coaster ride of ups and downs,” and that the two sides worked together through “constant communications and seamless coordination” to resolve the issues.
Earlier in the day, Biegun held talks with First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun, expressing hopes for “close cooperation” in the future on alliance issues and the stalled denuclearization talks.
“We’ve done a lot of great work together and there’s a lot of great work ahead for the United States and the ROK,” Biegun said during the meeting. ROK stands for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.
“I look forward to continuing close cooperation with you and your team in the weeks and months ahead,” he said.
The US envoy added that he would share more on the “great cooperation” between the two allies, not only on alliance issues, but also on relations with North Korea and combating the COVID-19 pandemic, during a lecture he was due to give at a local think tank Thursday afternoon.
Choi said the two countries had forged an “irreversible path” toward peace on the Korean Peninsula and hailed the alliance as a “linchpin of peace security” in Northeast Asia.
“During the time of your service, these past two plus years, the Trump and Moon administrations have achieved so much. Both the US and ROK have started on what I consider as an irreversible path toward peacemaking on the Korean Peninsula,” he said. “I’m sure North Korea knows this as well as we do. Shooting for the stars has made our alliance even stronger. We are a rock-solid linchpin of peace security in Northeast Asia.”
Choi added that the trust between the two countries was evident in how they had tackled the coronavirus pandemic, not closing borders or imposing travel bans on each other’s nationals but instead continuing with people-to-people ties at all levels.
The vice minister asked Biegun to play a role as a “bridge” for the various achievements in bilateral cooperation to continue in the next US administration.
During his stay here, Biegun is expected to meet with other high-level officials, including Suh Hoon, President Moon Jae-in’s top security adviser, as well as Park Jie-won, chief of the National Intelligence Service.
On Thursday he is scheduled to have a breakfast meeting with Unification Minister Lee In-young, and give a lecture at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is planning to host a banquet for him and the US delegation on Friday, before Biegun heads home Saturday.
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org