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US stresses ‘sincerity’ in its overture toward North Korea

Suh Hoon, South Korea’s director of national security at Cheong Wa Dae, shakes hands with his US counterpart, Jake Sullivan, in Washington on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Suh Hoon, South Korea’s director of national security at Cheong Wa Dae, shakes hands with his US counterpart, Jake Sullivan, in Washington on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
The top national security advisers of South Korea and the US on Tuesday reaffirmed their commitment to engaging with North Korea, pledging to work together to bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table.

Suh Hoon, South Korea’s director of national security at Cheong Wa Dae, was visiting Washington to hold a bilateral meeting with his US counterpart, Jake Sullivan, amid North Korea’s conflicting messages involving back-to-back missile tests and diplomatic overtures, including the recent reopening of inter-Korean communication hotlines.

According to Seoul’s readout of the high-level meeting, Sullivan stressed his government’s “sincerity” to reiterate that the US has no hostile intent toward North Korea.

“The US side reaffirmed the US’ sincerity that it holds no hostile policy toward North Korea and also reiterated its stance that it will engage in negotiations with North Korea anytime, anywhere without preconditions,” South Korea’s National Security Council said.

The remarks came one day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed doubt about the US’ intention by saying: “The US has been frequently signaling that it’s not hostile to our country, but there has been no behavioral ground to believe that it is not.”

It is unclear whether Sullivan was responding to Kim’s doubt directly but Seoul officials viewed the remarks as a positive signal that renewed the US’ eagerness for dialogue with North Korea.

During the meeting, Suh and Sullivan noted the two countries have continued ceaseless discussions on North Korean issues, including their diplomatic efforts at all levels to engage with North Korea, since the US unveiled its North Korea policy early this year.

The US, in particular, showed its full support for the resumption of inter-Korean talks, urging North Korea to respond positively to US overtures as well.

“The US expressed strong support for inter-Korean talks that could make breakthroughs in the Korean Peninsula situation and the COVID-19 pandemic,” Suh told reporters after the meeting.

“South Korea and the US agreed that practical progress could be made in dealing with current conditions if North Korea engaged more actively in South-North and North-US dialogue.”

The US National Security Council echoed that the two countries held detailed discussions on the current security situation in the region and called on North Korea to enter into serious and sustained diplomacy towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

According to a Cheong Wa Dae official, Suh also explained South Korea’s proposal for the declaration of a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War and its concrete plans to do so during the meeting.

“The US now has a deeper understanding of our stance. The two governments agreed to continue related discussions,” the official said on condition of anonymity. “Of course, the end-of-war declaration cannot be discussed separately from talks for North Korea’s denuclearization.”

The US readout of the meeting didn’t mention on discussions on the end-of-war declaration.

The official added the two sides also shared expectations about China’s role in the stalled diplomacy with North Korea as the meeting came after Sullivan’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, last week in Zurich.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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