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US sees importance of North Korea talks despite tension, South says

  • Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith

    Reuters

Seoul, South Korea   /   Thu, July 9, 2020   /   03:30 pm
US sees importance of North Korea talks despite tension, South says US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun and South Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young attend a news briefing after their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday. (Pool/Reuters/Chung Sung-Jun)

The United States has stressed the importance of resuming talks with North Korea, South Korea said on Thursday, even though North Korea has said it has no intention of returning to the negotiating table.

US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who wound up three days of talks in Seoul, earlier rejected speculation he was seeking to meet North Korean officials during his visit, but said the United States was open to talks.

"Biegun emphasized the importance of reopening dialogue with North Korea," the office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a statement.

Biegun, the top US envoy on efforts to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, met South Korea's national security adviser, Suh Hoon.

Biegun is due to arrive in Japan later on Thursday.

South Korea has been trying to promote peace efforts and Suh was instrumental in arranging summits between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump and Kim met for the first time in 2018 in Singapore, raising hopes for a negotiated end to North Korea's nuclear program. But their second summit, in 2019 in Vietnam, and later working-level talks, fell apart.

Trump said on Tuesday he was open to another meeting with Kim and thought it might be helpful, Voice of America said, citing a transcript of Trump interview with Gray Television, due to be aired on Sunday.

But North Korea, apparently frustrated that there's been no sign of any easing of punishing sanctions against it, has said in recent weeks it had no intention of sitting down again with the United States.

Tension flared last month when North Korea blew up a joint North-South liaison office on its side of the border, before just as suddenly dropping a threat of military action against the South.

Biegun has led working-level talks with North Korea but the negotiations have been stalled since the two sides last met in Sweden in October.