Biegun set to become next US deputy secretary of state

Posted on : 2019-10-30 16:42 KST Modified on : 2019-10-30 16:42 KST
Special representative for N. Korea to become State Department’s No. 2 as early as next week
US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, who is expected to become the next deputy secretary of state. (Hankyoreh archives)
US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, who is expected to become the next deputy secretary of state. (Hankyoreh archives)

Stephen Biegun, the US State Department special representative for North Korea, is expected to be appointed deputy secretary of state as early as next week, making him second-in-command within the department.

Two Donald Trump administration officials who are closely acquainted with the deputy secretary of state appointment process, as well as Congressional aides, said Biegun is likely to be appointed to fill the currently vacant deputy secretary seat within the next few days, the AP reported on Oct. 28.

If Biegun is appointed, he will be succeeding John Sullivan, who has been named as the next US ambassador to Russia. The appointments of both the ambassador to Russia and the deputy secretary of state are subject to Senate confirmation hearings. With Sullivan’s hearing scheduled for Oct. 30, Biegun’s selection was in some respects a hurried move. Some had originally predicted Biegun would be named for the position around mid-September, but the State Department delayed the decision amid a House impeachment investigation in the wake of the Ukraine scandal, the agency reported. Associates of Trump and current and former White House and State Department officials are currently being summoned one after another to give testimony in Congress.

Biegun first entered politics during the George W. Bush administration in 2001 as executive secretary of the White House National Security Council, serving in the top advisory role on national security issues in Congress. He was also an executive in charge of international governmental affairs at the Ford Motor Company for 14 years before being appointed State Department special representative for North Korea in August 2018. He is seen as having played a noteworthy role in the North Korea-US negotiation process that has led to meetings between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Some are predicting Biegun will hold on to his position as senior representative for working-level talks with North Korea even if he is promoted to deputy secretary of state. Analysts said that while his stature as “number two” in the State Department may work as a favorable factor for negotiations with North Korea, he may also have difficulty focusing on North Korea talks alone.

By Lee Jung-ae, staff reporter

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