Hard work still needed before Kim-Trump summit: US envoy
SEOUL - AFP
There was still some hard work to be done ahead of the upcoming summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a Washington envoy said Saturday after three days of talks in Pyongyang.
Biegun on Saturday briefed South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on his Pyongyang visit, shortly after Trump revealed the summit would take place in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.
"We have some hard work to do with the DPRK between now and then," Biegun told Kang, adding: "I’m confident that if both sides stay committed we can make real progress here.
Trump announced Hanoi as the location on Twitter, hailing as "very productive" the preparatory talks between diplomats from the two countries.
"I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim & advancing the cause of peace!" he said.
The State Department said talks during Biegun’s three-day trip explored Trump and Kim’s "commitments of complete denuclearization, transforming US-DPRK relations and building a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula".
It also confirmed Biegun had agreed to meet his North Korean counterpart Kim Hyok Chol again before the summit.
As reported by state media, the meeting focused on the need to modernize the military while maintaining party discipline in the ranks.
Attention will now focus on whether the US team have offered to lift some economic sanctions in return for Pyongyang taking concrete steps toward denuclearization.
Discussions on declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War could also have been on the table, with Biegun last week saying Trump was "ready to end this war."
The three-year conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas still technically at war, with the US keeping 28,500 troops in the South.
At their landmark summit in Singapore last year, the mercurial US and North Korean leaders produced a vaguely worded document in which
Kim pledged to work towards "the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula".
But progress has since stalled, with the two sides disagreeing over what that means.
Experts say tangible progress on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons will be needed for the second summit if it is to avoid being dismissed as "reality TV."
"He may surprise some but he won’t surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is," said Trump.
But Park Won-gon, a professor at South Korea’s Handong University, said Trump’s remarks may not align with Pyongyang’s current agenda.
"What Pyongyang wants now, more than anything, is the lifting of the existing sanctions," Park told AFP.
"The idea of being an economic powerhouse may sound too vague and even unrealistic for them at this moment."
North Korea, which holds most of the peninsula’s mineral resources, was once wealthier than the South, but decades of mismanagement and the demise of its former paymaster the Soviet Union have left it deeply impoverished.
In 2017 the UN Security Council banned the North’s main exports -- coal and other mineral resources, fisheries and textile products -- to cut off its access to hard currency in response to Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.