Updated 1040 KST to include details of President Trump’s announcement that the summit will take place in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, and at 1215 KST to include details of Biegun’s meetings with South Korean officials Saturday
Following three days of talks in Pyongyang, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun returned to Seoul Friday having agreed to meet his DPRK counterpart again later this month, according to the U.S. State Department.
Their next talks will come “in advance of President Trump and Chairman Kim’s second summit” set to take place February 27-28, the press release said.
Naming his North Korean counterpart’s current position in the government for the first time, it said Biegun and Special Representative for U.S. Affairs of the State Affairs Commission Kim Hyok Chol discussed bilateral relations, but was short on details.
Biegun and Kim “discussed advancing President Trump and Chairman Kim’s Singapore summit commitments of complete denuclearization, transforming U.S.-D.P.R.K. relations, and building a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula,” it said.
The omission in the State Department memo of any mention of discussions between Biegun and Kim over the next leader-level summit may indicate that talks mainly centered on what many experts are hoping will be preparations for a substantive bilateral agreement.
President Trump, however, announced Hanoi as the host city for the summit in a tweet shortly after the State Department memo was released, saying Biegun and Kim held “very productive meeting[s]” and “agreed upon [a] time and date” for the event.
The State Department also confirmed earlier reports in South Korean media that the talks took place from February 6-8 in Pyongyang, with Biegun returning to Seoul on Friday.
South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced late Friday that Biegun would hold talks with foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha and his ROK counterpart Lee Do-hoon starting at 1000 local time Saturday.
Biegun told reporters Saturday he was “confident that if both sides stay committed, we can make real progress,” and that “we have some hard work to do with the DPRK between now and” the Trump-Kim summit.
“I would say it was a productive set of discussions over the last few days, and our team engaged on a number of areas of mutual interests,” Biegun said while meeting with Lee Do-hoon, according to Yonhap News Agency.
“We don’t know where it is going to go, but we are in the midst of a conversation with the North,” he said during his earlier meeting with foreign minister Kang.
Biegun thanked Kang and President Moon Jae-in for their help laying the groundwork for the present situation, and also thanked the Vietnamese government for agreeing to host the summit.
First departing Wednesday morning from the Osan Air Base just south of Seoul, the U.S. Special Representative and his team traveled to Pyongyang via a U.S. Air Force jet and kicked off talks with Kim Hyok Chol just as President Trump officially announced the upcoming summit in Vietnam.
There was silence from the U.S. side in the days following, however, as Biegun continued talks for three days in Pyongyang in a trip for which the State Department did not originally include an expected time frame.
Kim, who was previously referred to by the U.S. and others as either simply Biegun’s counterpart or as the former DPRK Ambassador to Spain, has now been revealed to be working for the State Affairs Commission.
Biegun’s previous counterpart, Choe Son Hui, holds the position of vice foreign minister.
Following his meetings with Lee and Kang Saturday morning, Biegun will hold a trilateral luncheon with Lee and director general of Asia and Oceania affairs for the Japanese foreign ministry Kenji Kanasugi, according to Yonhap.
Featured image: State Department Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
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