Joe Biden, the president of the United States, has appointed a special envoy to dialogue in North Korea, saying he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in remain “deeply concerned” about Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal.
At a joint news conference on Friday, Biden also said he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the right conditions.
The U.S. president told White House reporters that his ultimate goal was the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but said he “had no illusions” about the difficulty of getting North Korea. give up its nuclear arsenals.
“We’re both deeply concerned about the situation,” Biden said, speaking alongside Moon. “Our two nations also share the will to relate diplomatically [North Korea] take pragmatic steps that reduce tensions ”on the Korean peninsula.
To help drive that effort, Biden said, veteran State Department official Sung Kim would serve as the U.S. special envoy to North Korea.
Sung Kim, a Korean-American diplomat, was sent special to North Korea under former President Barack Obama and helped establish former President Donald Trump’s summits with Kim.
He has also served as ambassador to South Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia and recently served as the top US diplomat for East Asia.
So far, Pyongyang has rejected U.S. pleas for diplomacy since Biden took over from Trump, who had three summits with Kim and the two famous “beautiful letter” exchanges.
However, Kim refused to give up his nuclear weapons, but imposed a freeze on evidence. It has not tested a nuclear bomb or launched an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017, although experts believe its arsenal has grown steadily.
Moon, for whom engagement with North Korea is a legacy issue before he leaves office next year, said Sung Kim’s appointment “reflects the firm commitment of the United States to explore diplomacy and its willingness to dialogue with North Korea “.
He said he expected a positive response.
Asked if Biden would consider following Trump’s summits, but ultimately unsuccessful, with Kim, the U.S. president said it should be on completely different terms.
The North Korean leader must commit to a “discussion about its nuclear arsenal,” Biden said, and allow his advisers to meet with his U.S. counterparts to lay the groundwork before that summit.
“I wouldn’t do what had been done in the recent past; It would not give him everything he was looking for: international recognition as legitimate and would allow him to move in the direction of appearing to be more … serious about what he had nothing serious about, ”he said.
Biden’s comments seemed to reflect a change in his thinking.
The White House had said in March that it was not Biden’s intention to meet with the North Korean leader.
Jenny Town of 38 North, a Washington-based North Korean surveillance project, said Sung Kim’s appointment was positive since the Biden administration had indicated it was in no hurry to fill the position.
However, he has given no indication of what concessions he could offer to start talks.
“The problem has been that the administration has only talked about denuclearization and continues to characterize any interaction with North Korea as nuclear negotiations,” he told Reuters news agency.
“So it’s still very difficult to get the North Koreans back on the table, but obviously Moon is going to push a lot.”
Although Moon said Biden had expressed support for intra-Korean dialogue and cooperation, Town said that would not mean much unless Washington, which has refused to ease sanctions on Pyongyang, allowed Seoul to space to move on.
The White House announced last month that it had completed a review of North Korean policy and that Biden would diverge from the strategies of its two most recent predecessors, rejecting both Trump’s personal effort to win Kim and the more focused approach. Obama practice.
But the Biden administration has not yet detailed what its third way will be to urge the north to abandon its nuclear program.
In their day of talks, Biden and Moon also reaffirmed a strong alliance between the two countries after tensions created by Trump, who assassinated Moon as weak and threatened to withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea.
Moon was the second foreign leader – after the Japanese prime minister – to visit the White House since Biden took office in January and Biden said his conversations were of “old friends”.
The two also discussed China and Taiwan.
Taiwan has complained of repeated military pressure from Beijing with the Chinese Air Force making frequent incursions into the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone.
“We have shared the view that peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits are extremely important and we agreed to work together on this issue considering special features in Sino-Taiwan relations,” Moon said.
In another victory for Moon, who has faced pressure at home over his treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the United States and South Korea had agreed on a vaccine partnership that would combine the experience of US and Korean production capacity.
He said this would help supply COVID-19 vaccines to the Indo-Pacific region, while Biden said the US would provide vaccines to 550,000 South Korean soldiers.