The US holds no hostile intent toward Pyongyang, President Joe Biden’s point man on North Korea said Monday, reaffirming a willingness to meet his North Korean counterparts “anywhere, at anytime.”
Sung Kim, the US special representative for North Korea, held talks with South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy Noh Kyu-duk in Seoul on Monday, to look for ways to bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table. Their session comes as the allies are holding combined military drills until Thursday, which Pyongyang denounced as the “most vivid expression of the US hostile policy” toward the North and warned the allies of a “security crisis.”
“The United States does not have hostile intent toward DPRK,” Kim told reporters after the meeting. “The ongoing US-ROK combined military exercises are long-standing, routine and purely defensive in nature and support the security of both of our countries.”
ROK stands for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea, while DPRK refers to the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“I continue to stand ready to meet with my North Korean counterparts anywhere, at anytime,” he said, reaffirming his earlier calls in June when Kim had offered to meet with Pyongyang “anywhere, anytime without preconditions.”
During their talks on Monday, the pair discussed potential humanitarian aid to the North as ways to engage the recalcitrant regime.
“We discussed possible humanitarian assistance to the DRPK,” Kim said. “I reaffirmed US support for inter-Korean dialogue and engagement as stipulated by the joint statement between our two leaders in May, and we will continue to lend our support to inter-Korean humanitarian cooperation projects.”
Specifically, Noh said the two sides talked about various areas of humanitarian aid, including health care, quarantine against infectious diseases, safe water and sanitation.
“We also discussed ways to provide humanitarian assistance through international organizations and nongovernmental organizations,” said Noh.
The Korean envoy said the two sides examined ways to make progress in the stalled peace process on the Korean Peninsula. “The US and Korea will stably manage the situation on the Korean Peninsula by closely watching the related issues, including the resumption of inter-Korean hotlines and joint military drills, and work together for the talks to resume at the earliest,” said Noh.
On Monday, Kim also met his Russian counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, who is also in Seoul. The US envoy was also scheduled to meet Vice Unification Minister Choi Young-joon in the afternoon to discuss a coordinated approach to Pyongyang.
The US and Russian envoys’ Seoul trip comes as the momentum for a thaw in soured inter-Korean ties was short-lived after Pyongyang slammed the joint drills as an “unwelcoming act of self-destruction for which a dear price should be paid.”
Last month, the sudden resumption of the inter-Korean hotlines after a yearlong halt raised hopes for a breakthrough in inter-Korean ties as well as improved US-North Korea relations. But the North has been unresponsive on the inter-Korean hotlines since Aug. 10, in an apparent protest of the ongoing joint military drills.
Denuclearization talks stalled during the Trump administration after the collapse of the Hanoi summit in 2019, when former US President Donald Trump rejected Kim Jong-un’s offer of major sanctions relief in exchange for North Korea’s denuclearization. Since then, inter-Korean ties have also remained at a standstill.
Washington has reached out to Pyongyang since the Biden administration took office early this year, but the regime has rebuffed the diplomatic overtures.
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org