North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (left) and US President Donald Trump (AP-Yonhap)
US President Donald Trump said he is open for another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, despite the North repeatedly denying any interest in it.
In a media interview on Tuesday (Washington time), Trump said: “I understand they want to meet and we would certainly do that.
“I would do it if I thought it was going to be helpful,” he was quoted as saying in a multiple US media outlets.
The comment came as his top envoy on North Korean affairs, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, reiterated in Seoul Washington’s resolve to restart dialogue with the communist regime.
“When Chairman Kim (Jong-un) appoints a counterpart to me, who is prepared and empowered to negotiate on these issues, they will find us ready at that very moment. We look forward to continuing our work on peaceful outcome of the Korean Peninsula,” Biegun said, adding Trump had given his full support on this effort.
The US official, however, stressed that his visit to Seoul was to meet with “close friends and allies, the South Koreans,” after meeting with his South Korean Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon, Seoul’s top nuclear envoy.
Lee said the two sides discussed ways to reopen the talks with North Korea, as he believes negotiations are the only way to resolve the North’s nuclear issue. He said Biegun had reaffirmed that the US is willing to be “flexible” to reach a “balanced agreement” if North returns back to the table.
Talk of a new US-North Korea summit has risen here recently after South Korean President Moon Jae-in floated the idea last week that he would work to facilitate one before the US presidential election in November.
Earlier, North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, however, ruled out such a possibility, saying Pyongyang does not feel “any need to sit face-to-face with the US.”
In response, Biegun emphasized he is not guided by the North’s Choe nor former National Security Adviser John Bolton, in an apparent reference to his hawkish stance on Pyongyang, but instead by the “vision” reached by Trump and Kim over their meetings in the past.
“Their vision is what guides our team: a focus on creating a more durable peace on the Korean Peninsula, transforming relations on the Korean Peninsula, elimination of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and a brighter future for the Korean people,” he said.
US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun speaks during a meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon, at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Trump and Kim met three times, beginning with their first summit in Singapore in 2018, raising hopes for an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear program. But the negotiations have stalled since their second summit in February last year in Vietnam as two sides remained at odds over the extent of sanctions relief that should be provided in exchange for the North giving up its nuclear capability.
Biegun also stressed that the US “strongly” supports inter-Korean cooperation, calling it an “important component in creating a more stable environment on the Korean Peninsula.”
“We look forward to fully supporting the government of Korea as it advances its goals with North Korea in inter-Korean cooperation,” he said, apparently referring to growing criticism here that the South Korea-US working group –- which coordinates policy on North Korea –- is hindering progress in inter-Korean relations.
Before his meeting with Lee, Biegun paid a courtesy call on Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and held the “strategic dialogue” with First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young.
During the talks with Cho, Biegun underlined Washington’s “ironclad” commitment to the defense of the Korean Peninsula, and that the US will be “fully engaged” with efforts to promote peace here.
Cho said he and Biegun reaffirmed their commitment to bring to an early conclusion to the drawn-out negotiation on the defense cost-sharing cost for the upkeep of some 28,500 American troops stationed in Korea.
Biegun arrived in Seoul on Tuesday for a three-day visit. His first trip to the country since December arrives amid heightened tension in the Korean Peninsula following the Pyongyang’s recent blowing up of an inter-Korean liaison office and threatening to scrap a bilateral military agreement, in protest against defectors sending anti-North Korea leaflets across the border.
The US’ point man on North Korea is also likely to meet Suh Hoon, Seoul’s new national security adviser during his trip. After his stay in Seoul, Biegun and the US delegates plan to head over to Japan on Thursday to meet with officials there and return to the US on Friday.
By Ahn Sung-mi (email@example.com