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Resumption of US-NK dialogue a matter for speculation as drills come to end

A possible resumption of talks between the US and North Korea is in the spotlight as the top nuclear negotiator from Washington is due in Seoul on Tuesday, the final day of their joint military drills.

According to the US Department of State, US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun is set to arrive here after visiting Tokyo. His trip to both countries is intended to “further strengthen coordination on the final, fully verified denuclearization” of North Korea. 

US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun. Yonhap
US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun. Yonhap

Biegun’s trip to Seoul will reportedly last three days, during which he will meet with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon. In addition, Biegun is likely to meet with other government officials, including at Cheong Wa Dae.

The fact that his visit coincides with the end of the Combined Command Post Training, a joint South Korea-US military exercise that was met with a show of force from the North, is fueling speculation about the revival of talks.

Since the exercise began, Pyongyang has accused Seoul and Washington of practicing to annihilate the North and conducted a series of weapons tests in protest. Within the span of three weeks, North Korea has conducted six projectile launches and claimed one projectile was a newly developed tactical weapon. In reporting on the drills, North Korean media stated that the launches were warnings to Seoul, while the North Korean Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the South would not be involved in any future dialogue.

While Seoul urged Pyongyang to cease provoking it, US President Donald Trump has downplayed the significance of the launches and tweeted that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has expressed hope of holding further negotiations.

In a tweet posted on Aug. 10, Trump said Kim had stated “very nicely” in a personal letter that he would like to meet and resume negotiations as soon as the drills are over.

Trump also wrote that the letter was a “small apology” for the launches, and that Kim had stated that they would stop with the end of the South Korea-US military exercise.