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US to end North Korea review in weeks: official

US President Joe Biden (AFP-Yonhap)
US President Joe Biden (AFP-Yonhap)
The US will wrap up its policy review on North Korea in the coming weeks, a senior US diplomat for East Asian affairs said Friday, ahead of senior-level talks to take place in Seoul this week between the Secretary of State and Defense Secretary and their South Korean counterparts.

The top US envoy and defense chief is visiting Korea on March 17 and 18 following a trip to Japan to discuss North Korea’s denuclearization, among others, in the first high-level meeting held in person.

“I don‘t have an exact timeline for the completion of the review but we’re working expeditiously, and I think maybe in the coming weeks, we‘ll be able to complete the review,” said Sung Kim, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Kim, who did not elaborate on the direction of the new policy, said Washington is keen to heed input from Seoul and Tokyo in the process of putting together a new approach to Pyongyang, describing the high-level gathering in Seoul as an opportunity to provide another senior level input into the process.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s first overseas trip -- a tour of Japan and Korea -- demonstrates the Biden administration’s resolve to reinforce alliances in the region to balance an assertive China, which is at odds with the US over issues ranging from trade to North Korea.

But, the top US envoy and defense chief will not make a formal announcement on the policy review during the trip, because the tour aims to listen to Seoul and Tokyo before setting the end goals with North Korea, the State Department said.

Meanwhile, North Korea has not responded to any behind-the-scenes diplomatic outreach since mid-February by the Biden administration, which reached out to North Korea’s mission to the UN and several other channels, Reuters said, citing a senior administration official.

“To date, we have not received any response from Pyongyang,” the official said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who vowed to carry on with his nuclear arms buildup at the January party congress, has called the US his “biggest enemy” and demanded Washington scrap what he calls its anti-Pyongyang policy, referring to sanctions over his nuclear weapons program.

By Choi Si-young (