FRIDAY, February 23, 2024

Seoul, Washington agree to induce Pyongyang back to nuclear talks

Seoul, Washington agree to induce Pyongyang back to nuclear talks

US Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman on Thursday held talks with key officials here, underscoring close coordination between the allies to induce North Korea back to the stalled denuclearization talks.

As part of the Asia trip, Sherman arrived in Seoul on Wednesday after her stop in Tokyo, where she and her South Korean and Japanese counterparts, Choi Jong-kun and Takeo Mori, respectively, held trilateral talks and reiterated close coordination on North Korea policy.

Sherman met with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong in the morning, discussing bilateral, regional and global issues, as well as follow-up measures to the outcome of the summit between Presidents Moon Jae-in and Joe Biden in May.

During their talks, the two reaffirmed that their goal remained the “complete denuclearization and permanent peace” of the Korean Peninsula -- which was affirmed by the leaders of the two countries at the summit -- and diplomacy and dialogue remain the best way to achieve that objective. The officials vowed to continue close cooperation at all levels to convince the North back to the negotiating table, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Chung asked for Sherman’s efforts to strengthen the South Korea-US alliance. In response, Sherman said she would do so, stressing the alliance is the linchpin to peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and Northeast Asia.

She also held a spearate meeting with President Moon Jae-in at Cheong Wa Dae. During their talks, Sherman expressed hope that the North will respond to a US offer for talks at an early date, according to Moon’s office. The US diplomat also said that she seeks to hold in-depth talks on Pyongyang with Chinese officials when she visits China later on Sunday.

Moon asked Sherman for her proactive role for the resumption of talks between Washington and Pyongyang. .

Sherman also met National Security Adviser Suh Hoon and discussed ways to resume both US-North Korea and inter-Korean talks.

In the afternoon, she held separate meetings with Unification Minister Lee In-young and Vice Minister Choi Young-joon.

During her session with Lee, Sherman voiced support for inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation and added that the ministry’s role is important for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, according to the Unification Ministry.

Lee stressed that now would be the most important period to diplomatically engage with the North in order to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, adding that the allies need to continue their efforts to engage.

Her visit comes as the Biden administration seeks to bolster three-way cooperation with its key Asian allies against China’s growing assertiveness and a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Washington has expressed that it is ready to meet with Pyongyang “anytime and anywhere without preconditions,” but the North has rebuffed US diplomatic overtures since President Joe Biden took office.

On Friday, Sherman is set to hold a strategic dialogue with Choi to discuss wide-ranging issues, including the economic cooperation, the climate crisis, pandemic relief and post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

From Seoul, she will then head to Mongolia, China and Oman.

Sherman’s China trip was announced at the last minute on Wednesday. She is scheduled to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other officials in the northeastern Chinese city of Tianjin.

Her visit to China comes as tensions between the two largest economies continue to escalate on multiple fronts. North Korea is expected to be among the wide range of agenda items for Sherman’s talks with her Chinese counterparts, as an area where the two countries share a common interest.