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Nuclear envoy says US ready for NK talks ‘anywhere, anytime’

Sung Kim, US special representative for North Korea, speaks during trilateral talks with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts at the Lotte Hotel in central Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)
Sung Kim, US special representative for North Korea, speaks during trilateral talks with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts at the Lotte Hotel in central Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

The US is willing to meet North Korea for dialogue “anywhere, anytime, without preconditions,” President Joe Biden’s point man on North Korea said, expressing hope for a positive response from the reclusive regime.

Sung Kim, US special representative for North Korea, made the remarks in Seoul during trilateral talks with his counterparts from South Korea and Japan, Noh Kyu-duk and Takehiro Funakoshi, saying the Biden administration’s policy called for a “calibrated, practical approach” that is open to diplomacy with Pyongyang.

“We continue to hope that the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach and our offer to meet anywhere, anytime, without preconditions,” said Kim, referring to the North by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

In the meantime, the US would continue to implement the UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea, said Kim, and would urge other UN member countries to do the same. The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions over the North’s nuclear weapons program.

Their first in-person trilateral meeting since Biden took office followed a key party meeting in North Korea last week. During the plenary meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said his country was ready for “both dialogue and confrontation” with Washington, particularly the latter. It was his first direct comment on the Biden administration since the inauguration.

At the bilateral talks between Noh and Sung Kim, which took place right before the trilateral session, the US envoy said he had also taken note of the North Korean leader’s recent statement and that Washington too was prepared for either dialogue or confrontation.

“We will be prepared for either, because you know, we are still waiting to hear back from Pyongyang for a meeting,” said Kim. “Hopefully, Chairman Kim’s reference to dialogue indicates that we will get a positive response soon.”

Noh, during his bilateral session with Sung Kim, stressed that Seoul would continue to play a “necessary” role for the early resumption of talks with Pyongyang, through consultations and coordination with Washington.

“We wish to restore the structure where inter-Korean and US-DPRK relations reinforce each other in a mutually beneficial way,” said Noh.

Sung Kim also expressed support for meaningful inter-Korean dialogue, cooperation and engagement, reiterating Biden’s words during his summit with President Moon Jae-in in Washington last month.

In the afternoon Noh and Funakoshi held a bilateral meeting in which the Japanese envoy stressed that both Seoul-Tokyo cooperation and trilateral cooperation were essential for peace and stability in the region, especially in dealing with Pyongyang.

Later in the day, Sung Kim, along with Jung Pak, deputy special representative for North Korea, met with Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong. Chung asked the US envoy for his efforts to make substantive progress on the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, through close coordination between the US and Korea.

In turn, Kim said the two countries will closely cooperate based on a fully-coordinated strategy in order to induce Pyongyang back to the negotiating table.

Sung Kim is in South Korea for a five-day visit that concludes Wednesday. The US envoy, who doubles as ambassador to Indonesia, was appointed to the post last month after the Biden administration completed a policy review on North Korea. As a result of that review, the US decided to pursue an approach that is calibrated and practical and that aims for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea have remained stalled for two years since the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim Jong-un and Trump in 2019.

On Tuesday, Sung Kim is set to meet with Unification Minister Lee In-young and other senior ministry officials.

By Ahn Sung-mi (