The U.S. chief nuclear negotiator on Friday said Washington is yet to receive any indication that Pyongyang is interested in talks, expressing reservations about a two-month pause in missile and nuclear tests by the North.
“I hope that they will stop forever,” Joseph Yun, Special Representative for North Korea Policy, said at a news conference in Jeju, South Korea, in comments carried by Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency.
“But we had no communication from them so I don’t know whether to interpret it positively or not. We have no signal from them.”
Yun told a closed-door panel at the Council on Foreign Relations in October that a pause in nuclear and missile tests for around 60 days by North Korea would represent a signal that the DPRK was interested in dialogue with the U.S.
Pyongyang last tested a missile on September 15, launching the Hwasong-12 ballistic missile at a regular trajectory over Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido.
Yun and his South Korean counterpart held talks on Friday on the sidelines of the Northeast Asia Platform for Peace and Cooperation Conference and the United Nations Conference on Disarmament.
South Korean Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon told press that the U.S. and South Korea did not consider the two-month pause in testing to constitute a serious ceasing of “provocations.”
“North Korea hasn’t yet shown their intention [to stop provocations],” Lee said. “[The hiatus in provocations] is a clearly good thing, but what representative Yun says is that North Korea should say ‘we don’t make provocation for dialogue,’” he added.
When asked what accounted for the two-month pause, Lee said Seoul and Washington “can’t positively interpret it far ahead, but we can’t also consider it pessimistically.”
But Lee said the two agreed on the necessity of a program of “pressure and sanctions” on the North.
The meeting came hours before Song Tao, a special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping, was set to depart for a visit to North Korea.
Song, head of the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), is due to visit Pyongyang to brief officials on last month’s 19th National Congress of the CPC.
“China, of course, has a big role to play on Northeast Asia security issues,” Yun said. “I hope, as China has done within the (United Nations Security Council) and elsewhere, it regards the denuclearization as a critical goal.”
“We do hope that a special envoy will push forward that goal.”
Lee told media that the visit had “a significant meaning, particularly at this point.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday said that the U.S. would consider talks with North Korea “if they stop their shooting missiles, stop developing nukes, stop building more nukes.”
Speaking to media en route to Colorado, the Pentagon chief also said the North could resume dialogue with the U.S. so long as “they don’t export the weapons.”
Pentagon chief spokesperson Dana White on Wednesday said Washington “wouldn’t speculate” on Pyongyang’s motivations for the two-month pause.
“I think it’s perilous to predict anything about what North Korea does or doesn’t do. But we’re continuing to monitor the situation,” White said.
“Our policies remain to have the verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. So it’s a diplomatic effort. We’ll continue to support our diplomats and ensure that they can negotiate from a position of strength.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), File photo
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