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Washington stresses Seoul’s ‘input’ in NK policy review

Sung Kim (left), acting US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, poses with Noh Kyu-duk, South Korea's top nuclear envoy, before the talks at the Foreign Ministry on Friday. (Yonhap)
Sung Kim (left), acting US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, poses with Noh Kyu-duk, South Korea's top nuclear envoy, before the talks at the Foreign Ministry on Friday. (Yonhap)

A senior US diplomat on Friday stressed South Korea’s “input” in Washington’s ongoing policy review on North Korea, reiterating the importance of close consultations and coordination between the allies in dealing with the reclusive regime. 

The remarks were made by Sung Kim, acting US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, during his meeting with Noh Kyu-duk, South Korea’s top nuclear envoy, at the Foreign Ministry earlier in the day. The meeting was held as a follow-up to an agreement reached during the “two-plus-two” talks between the countries’ foreign and defense ministers the previous day. According to the joint statement, the US and Korea set North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile issues as a priority for the alliance and agreed to pursue a “fully coordinated strategy” toward the North. 

“As you know, you and I and our teams have stayed in very close touch from the very beginning of our North Korea policy review,” said Kim at the start of the meeting. “As Secretary Blinken emphasized yesterday and the day before, we greatly value input from the Republic of Korea, as we undertake this important comprehensive review of our North Korea policy.”

Noh expressed hope of coming up with a common strategy with Washington on dealing with North Korea, saying it was “essential” to effectively persuade North Korea to denuclearize. 

“Establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula is the top priority of my government’s foreign and security policy,” he said. “Genuine peace on the Korean Peninsula can be achieved only after the complete denuclearization.

“My government’s solemn duty is to focus our effort to bring about genuine peace as a norm on the peninsula as soon as possible, in close consultation and coordination with the US.”

The Biden administration is currently conducting a policy review on North Korea, with plans to complete it in the next few weeks, Blinken said Thursday. Washington is considering two options -- resuming pressure and potential future diplomacy -- though Blinken declined to elaborate. 

With Washington’s ongoing North Korea review and the high-profile visit to the region, Pyongyang, which had kept mum on the US since President Joe Biden’s election, broke months of silence and leveled a sharp rebuke toward the US this week. Pyongyang’s fresh warning can be seen as a way to gain leverage and influence the new administration’s policies by creating tension, observers say. 

Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s powerful younger sister, warned the US against “causing a stink” if it wants to “sleep in peace” for the coming four years. 

Just hours before the “two-plus-two” meeting, North Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui called Washington’s earlier attempts at talks a “cheap trick,” and said it would reject further outreach unless Washington ended its “hostile” policy against Pyongyang. 

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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