About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to hold talks with North Korean officials “at the earliest possible time” and has expressed his desire to push forward negotiations “at a very fast speed,” South Korea’s foreign minister said on Monday.
Speaking at a news conference marking the first anniversary of her appointment as South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and following a phone call with her U.S. counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha said Pompeo “will sit down with North Korea at the earliest possible time.”
“The State Secretary Pompeo has the will to push ahead with [the negotiation] at a very fast speed,” Kang added.
Last week’s Singapore Declaration saw the U.S. commit to talks between Pompeo and “the relevant high-level DPRK official” at “the earliest possible date.”
Monday also saw minister Kang say the establishment of a direct phone line between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doesn’t appear to be imminent.
The U.S. President last week said he had provided the DPRK leader with “a very direct number” during their summit last week, and that Kim could call him “if he has any difficulties.”
“State Secretary Pompeo said that it hasn’t yet been concretely pushed forward,” Kang told assembled media on Monday.
Speaking at the news conference, the foreign minister also dismissed criticism that last week’s joint DPRK-U.S. statement contained too little detail.
“Expectations that a lot of details would be contained were excessive, considering the characteristic of the meeting between the two leaders, which is the first of its kind and the period of preparation was very short,” Kang said.
The South Korean foreign minister instead praised “the intention of the leaders to fundamentally re-establish the relations of the two countries.”
Monday also saw Kang respond to Trump’s suggestion last week that the Korean War would formally come to an end “soon,” saying the Moon administration planned to declare an end to the conflict by the end of the year.
“I believe the outcome should come based on close consultation with the U.S. and the North,” Kang said, adding that she believed China can also “play a very significant role” in the process and that Seoul would “closely consult” with Beijing.
“We will deal with the issue with a flexible approach on the timing and the format, however.”
Kang also raised opposition to the President’s comments last week that the U.S. “won’t have to help” North Korea with the cost of its denuclearization.
“I think President Trump’s comments that the South and Japan will pay come from his business background,” the foreign minister said. “I believe all countries should contribute to achieving the North’s denuclearization.”
The South Korean minister said all countries with a “close interest,” including the U.S., Japan, China and the South, shared the responsibility for the DPRK issue.
Monday saw the foreign minister dismiss the U.S. President’s claims that U.S.-ROK military drills – set now to be canceled as a diplomatic overture to the North – are “very provocative.”
“There is no change in our stance that the military drills are defensive and legitimate and staged in response to the North’s illegal activities of developing nuclear weapons and missiles and provocations,” Kang said, saying that Trump may have used the phrase “provocative” after it was used by the DPRK leader during their meeting.
Kang said she had discussed the planned suspension of the combined military exercises with Secretary of State Pompeo on Monday morning.
Speaking at the news conference, Kang also expressed her willingness to meet DPRK foreign minister Ri Yong Ho on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), set to take place in Singapore in August.
“It is rather strange if the foreign ministers don’t have a meeting while staying at the same place, under the circumstances that momentum for inter-Korean relations has newly improved and the two leaders met twice,” Kang said.
North and South Korean foreign ministers briefly met at last year’s ARF.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA)