Mark Lambert, deputy assistant secretary of state for Japan and Korea, is seen answering questions in a webinar hosted by the Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall on Wednesday in this captured image. (Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall website)
WASHINGTON -- The United States is committed to the Singapore Declaration that calls for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and normalization of US-North Korea relations, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Japan and Korea Mark Lambert said Wednesday.
Lambert also reiterated the US' willingness to meet with North Korea at any time without preconditions.
"We're committed to the framework that was laid out in Singapore," he said, referring to former President Donald Trump's Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, held in June 2018.
Trump and Kim met again in Hanoi in February 2019, but the second-ever US-North Korea summit ended without a deal.
North Korea has stayed away from denuclearization negotiations since 2019, citing what it claims to be US hostility toward Pyongyang.
"We have no hostile intent to the DPRK, and even today we continue to make it clear to North Korea that we'll go anywhere at any time to talk about any aspect of a lasting peace and denuclearization on the peninsula," Lambert said in a webinar hosted by the Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall, a non-profit, non-partisan organization.
"Unfortunately, to date, we are not making any progress," he added.
DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
Seoul had hoped the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympic Games could provide a venue to restart dialogue with North Korea, just as the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, had led to three inter-Korean summits and two US-North Korea summits.
Washington, however, has said it will diplomatically boycott the Beijing games over what it called "egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang."
Lambert said it was "sort of a moot question" to ask if the Beijing Olympics could have provided such a venue since North Korea could not send an official delegation to the games anyway.
The International Olympic Committee earlier suspended the North's National Olympic Committee for failing to take part in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, held in Tokyo earlier this year.
When asked about South Korea-Japan relations, the US diplomat stressed the need for the two US allies to work closely together.
"From our American stand point, having our two closest allies in East Asia not cooperating as closely as they could make us less secure," he said.
"There's a view that while the heartbreak and the terrible things that happened in the 20th century are never going to go away, that the challenges that we all share in the 21st century need to be attended to," added Lambert.
Seoul-Tokyo relations have been at their lowest ebb since 2019 when Japan took a series of economic measures believed to be aimed at retaliating against a Seoul court decision that ordered Japanese firms to pay compensation to Korean workers forced into labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea.
"A lot of us would like to see those historic issues dealt with in a mutually satisfactory way, so that they do not jeopardize our ability to work comprehensively together on these modern issues," said Lambert.
He also expressed concerns over the joint defense readiness of the US and South Korean and Japanese allies, noting the countries have been forced to greatly scale back their joint military exercises due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's been very frustrating because obviously the safety of our troops has to be taken into account," he said. "It does concern us from a readiness standpoint, because in order to do their jobs effectively, they need to practice and practice not just as American units but practice with their Japanese and their Korean counterparts." (Yonhap)