Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun stressed the United States’ commitment to restarting talks between Washington and Pyongyang on Thursday, wrapping up a visit to South Korea that was largely dominated by speculation over the fate of diplomacy with the North.
Following a meeting with Suh Hoon, the new director of the National Security Office (NSO), a readout by the Blue House stated that Biegun had “emphasized the importance of resuming dialogue between the North and the U.S.”
Suh, in turn, reportedly said he “highly appreciated how … Biegun is committed to resuming talks between the North and the United States,” further asking Biegun “to continue such efforts.”
The U.S. and South Korea shared recent observations on North Korea during the meeting, which took place for more than an hour on Thursday morning. The Blue House also stated that Suh and Biegun discussed measures for “making progress on the peace process on the Korean peninsula.”
This was the first meeting between the two officials since South Korean President Moon Jae-in chose Suh, former head of the country’s spy agency, as the new head of the NSO.
During the meet-and-greet, Suh and Biegun also reaffirmed the importance of a strong alliance between Seoul and Washington, reportedly agreeing on the need to “conclude defense cost-sharing negotiations as soon as possible.”
Biegun arrived in Seoul on Tuesday in order to meet with his South Korean counterpart and other top officials the following day, stressing that the goal of his Asia visit did not include any potential meetings with North Koreans.
“This visit this week is to meet with our close friends and allies,” he said.
The U.S. envoy also said that he does not “take direction” from DPRK vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui, who recently stated that North Korea does “not feel any need to sit face to face with the U.S.”
Confusion surfaced earlier this week when U.S. President Donald Trump made surprise remarks that North Korea does “want to meet” with him — a statement that came only hours after Pyongyang reiterated that it has “no intention” to sit with the U.S. anymore.
Biegun dismissed the possibility of an impending meeting between him and North Korean officials during his trip to Seoul, but still advocated for engagement between the two Koreas on Wednesday.
“The U.S. strongly supports inter-Korean cooperation, and we believe this plays an important component in creating a more stable environment on the Korean peninsula,” Biegun stated.
In a background briefing on Thursday, Seoul’s unification ministry spokesperson, Yoh Sang-key, said that the government “welcomes” Biegun’s comments upholding inter-Korean dialogue.
Biegun is expected to head to Tokyo on Thursday afternoon after wrapping up his visit in Seoul.
Meanwhile in South Korea, several officials are settling into new roles that could significantly affect the country’s North Korea policy as part of a broad diplomacy and security reshuffle.
Suh Hoon started his role as director of the Blue House’s national security office this week, receiving a congratulatory phone call from his Japanese counterpart, Shigeru Kitamura, on Wednesday.
South Korea’s National Assembly also formally received a request on Wednesday to hold hearings to confirm the country’s new unification minister, Lee In-young, as well as the new head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), Park Jie-won.
Edited by Kelly Kasulis
Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun stressed the United States' commitment to restarting talks between Washington and Pyongyang on Thursday, wrapping up a visit to South Korea that was largely dominated by speculation over the fate of diplomacy with the North.
Following a meeting with Suh Hoon, the new director of the National Security Office (NSO), a readout by the Blue House stated that Biegun had "emphasized the importance of resuming dialogue between the North and the U.S."