SEOUL, Korea, Republic of – Senior US and South Korean officials agreed Thursday to try to convince North Korea to return to talks on its nuclear program, something Pyongyang has insisted it will not do in protest of what it calls American hostility. .
US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman was in Seoul as part of her regional tour that will take her to China this weekend. She will be the highest-ranking US official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office in January.
On Thursday, he met with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong to discuss North Korea, the Seoul-Washington military alliance and other regional issues.
The two decided to continue close consultations for North Korea to return to talks and agreed that dialogue is essential for complete denuclearization and permanent peace on the Korean peninsula, Chung’s ministry said in a statement.
US-led diplomacy aimed at stripping North Korea of its nuclear program in exchange for economic and political gains has stalled for about two and a half years. A major sticking point is North Korea’s calls for the United States to abandon the policy Pyongyang considers hostile, an apparent reference to the punishment of sanctions imposed by the United States in its past nuclear and missile tests.
Last month, the influential sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, dismissed the prospects of a restart of nuclear diplomacy, saying that US expectations of the talks “would plunge them into further disappointment.” After her statement, Kim’s Foreign Minister said North Korea was not even considering any contact with the Americans, noting that “it would get us nowhere, it would just take us precious time.”
The forceful back-to-back remarks have dampened hopes that arose when Kim said North Korea was ready for both dialogue and confrontation, albeit more ready for confrontation.
Some experts say that North Korea will likely find an urgent need to return to talks if its current economic difficulties related to the pandemic increase.
Also during Thursday’s meeting, Chung asked Sherman to strive to strengthen the alliance between South Korea and the United States. Sherman responded that he would, saying the alliance is key to peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and Northeast Asia, the statement said.
Later Thursday, Sherman met with President Moon Jae-in at Moon’s presidential office in the Blue House. The details of their meeting were not immediately available.