(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump’s top envoy to North Korea countered Kim Jong Un’s threat of a Christmas provocation with a call for more nuclear talks to usher in a “season of peace.”
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun on Monday urged Kim to return to negotiations, noting that the coming holiday was “one of the most sacred days on our calendar.” Biegun made the remarks during his first visit to Seoul since North Korea threatened to give Trump a “Christmas gift” to show its frustration with the U.S.
“We are fully aware of the strong potential for North Korea to conduct a major provocation in the days ahead,” Biegun told reporters. “Such action will be most unhelpful in achieving a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
Biegun’s comments came on the heels of North Korea’s claims of a second “crucial test” Saturday that it said had boosted its nuclear-deterrent capabilities. Such tests have put further pressure on the U.S. to try to break the deadlock in negotiations between the two countries after working-level talks collapsed in October in Stockholm.
Kim is seeking greater U.S. concessions in return for his decision to suspend nuclear weapons tests and his agreement with Trump in Singapore to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Pyongyang threatened to take a “new path” if there was no progress in talks by the end of the year, following up earlier this month with its “Christmas gift” threat.
“Let me be absolutely clear: The United States does not have a deadline; we have a goal — to fulfill the commitments the two leaders made during their historic summit in Singapore,” Biegun said alongside his South Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon. Lee added that South Korea and the U.S. were “ready to discuss in-depth any issues” of their North Korean counterparts’ interests.
The U.S. envoy said his team of negotiators have “offered a number of creative ways” to move forward and reach an agreement. Recent rhetoric from North Korean officials slamming American representatives reflect “neither the spirit nor the content” of numerous working-level talks between the two sides, he said.
Biegun also met Monday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chol. Moon asked Biegun to continue his efforts for the development of the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, presidential spokesman Han Jung-woo said in a statement.
The visit raised speculation in South Korean media that Biegun might hold last-ditch talks with his North Korean counterparts in the nearby Demilitarized Zone, although no such meeting was on his agenda.
“It is time for us to do our jobs. Let’s get this done,” Biegun said in a direct message to North Korea. “We are here, and you know how to reach us.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Jihye Lee in Seoul at firstname.lastname@example.org
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