Sung Kim visits S. Korea after Kim Jong-un mentions "dialogue"

Posted on : 2021-06-21 16:45 KST Modified on : 2021-06-21 16:46 KST
What message will South Korea and the US' senior envoys send to North Korea?
Sung Kim, the US special representative for North Korea, arrives at Incheon International Airport on Saturday. (Yonhap News)
Sung Kim, the US special representative for North Korea, arrives at Incheon International Airport on Saturday. (Yonhap News)

After North Korean leader Kim Jong-un broached the possibility of dialogue with the Biden administration for the first time, attention is focusing on what message South Korea and the US' senior envoys on the North Korea nuclear issue will send to the North when they meet Monday.

Noh Kyu-duk, South Korea's special representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, and Sung Kim, the US special representative for North Korea, will be holding their first meeting in a hotel in Seoul on Monday. Their meeting is part of Kim's five-day trip to South Korea, which began on Saturday.

Sung Kim will be accompanied by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Jung Pak, who serves as the US deputy special representative for North Korea affairs, as well as by officials from the White House's National Security Council.

According to South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Noh and Kim's meeting will be focused on implementing follow-up measures to last month's summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Joe Biden.

The two officials are likely to exchange opinions about Korean Peninsula affairs and discuss ways to make meaningful progress toward complete denuclearization and the establishment of lasting peace.

For now, South Korea's Foreign Ministry is optimistic about the attitude toward the US that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un adopted in the 3rd Plenary Session of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) on Friday. Officials have drawn particular attention to Kim's mention of the need to "maintain stability in Korean Peninsula affairs."

His remark that the North "should be prepared for both dialogue and confrontation" is also seen as a good signal. A South Korean government official said it was "positive."

"While there's no way to know when North Korea will engage in dialogue, we think Kim's remarks carry unusual weight because he made them publicly during a plenary session [of the WPK Central Committee]," the official said.

South Korean and American officials are also expected to devote considerable attention to how to resume dialogue with North Korea as they discuss follow-up measures to Moon and Biden's summit.

Considering that Biden expressed "his support for inter-Korean dialogue, engagement, and cooperation" in his joint statement with Moon, the South Koreans could ask for a more concrete discussion of that.

In the weeks since the summit, Moon has mentioned cooperating with North Korea on COVID-19 vaccines, while South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young has brought up humanitarian aid for North Korea in the form of food supplies.

The Americans might raise the issue of North Korean human rights abuses and ask for the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions against the North.

But a South Korean official explained that the key agenda item will be "deliberating how we can resume dialogue with North Korea."

Another item to be discussed in the meeting is how to improve the South Korea-US Working Group that was begun under former US President Donald Trump.

The two countries initially launched the Working Group to cooperate closely on facilitating inter-Korean cooperation amid the international community's strict sanctions on North Korea. But after North Korea and the US reached an impasse, critics say, the Working Group served to prevent inter-Korean relations from getting ahead of North Korea-US relations.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry hopes to reactivate the Working Group after making changes to highlight its positive functions.

Following their bilateral meeting, Kim and Noh are planning to hold a trilateral meeting with Takehiro Funakoshi, director-general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Japan's senior envoy on the North Korean nuclear issue.

South Korea and Japan are also scheduled to hold bilateral talks.

On Tuesday, Kim is planning to convene with Unification Minister Lee In-young and sit down with South Korean academics and members of civil society to explain the results of the US review of North Korea policy.

Sung Kim is scheduled to leave South Korea on Wednesday. He reportedly doesn't have any plans to meet with the North Koreans during his visit to the South.

By Kim Ji-eun, staff reporter

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