[Column] My hope for US-DPRK diplomacy

Posted on : 2021-08-24 10:37 KST Modified on : 2021-08-24 10:37 KST
Sung Kim
Sung Kim

By Sung Kim, US special representative for North Korea

According to a Korean idiom, after the rain, the ground hardens. It’s a reminder to me that while the US-DPRK relationship has weathered many storms, there continues to be an opportunity for calm and possibility. With that in mind, I am pleased to be back in Seoul in search of new possibilities.

This is my second trip here in the last three months. It follows the visit of Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman and other high-level meetings that reflect the Biden-Harris administration’s focus on close coordination with the Republic of Korea (ROK), including on issues related to the DPRK. My top priority as the US special representative for the DPRK is to collaborate closely with my ROK counterparts to continue to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We know this will not be easy. To reach our objective, we are taking a calibrated, practical approach that will explore diplomacy with the DPRK. To that end, we have reached out directly to Pyongyang to initiate dialogue and stand ready to meet anywhere, anytime.

The United States does not have hostile intent toward the DPRK. The US-ROK combined military exercises, which are currently underway, are longstanding, routine, and purely defensive, and support the security of both our countries. We seek to enhance peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region, and we are prepared to work with the DPRK in good faith toward this goal.

We are not starting from scratch. We continue to seek the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and improving US-DPRK relations — an aim that has remained constant through four administrations, and one to which Pyongyang has previously committed in multiple documents. Our diplomatic efforts will build on the 2018 Singapore Joint Statement and other past documents and statements, including the 2018 Panmunjom Declaration and the 2005 Six-Party Talks Joint Statement.

It’s on this basis that we hope the DPRK will come to the table to discuss our respective intentions and concerns and explore what progress may be achievable. As a diplomat who has been deeply involved in US-DPRK relations throughout my career, I know that making progress will be difficult, but I believe that through a committed and creative approach, we can find a path forward on this important issue. I take this responsibility seriously, not only due to the trust that President Biden and Secretary Blinken have placed in me as the special representative for the DPRK, but also because of the impact our actions could have on all Korean people.

In the meantime, we continue to have a responsibility to implement the UN Security Council resolutions addressing the DPRK, just as we implement other UN Security Council resolutions. We will continue to call on all UN Member States to fulfill their international obligations, in line with our goal of reinforcing global counterproliferation efforts — this keeps us all safer.

Furthermore, consistent with the Biden-Harris administration’s focus on human rights, we will continue to advocate for the human rights of the North Korean people.

We are also prepared to work cooperatively with the DPRK to address areas of shared humanitarian concern. The United States will continue to support the provision of humanitarian aid, consistent with international standards for access and monitoring, to the most vulnerable North Koreans, regardless of progress on denuclearization. We will lend our support to inter-Korean humanitarian cooperation projects, and we hope to resume cooperation in recovering the remains of US service members still missing from the Korean War. Moreover, we are open to exploring meaningful confidence-building initiatives.

The United States will continue to work closely with our allies and partners, especially the ROK and Japan, as well as others with an interest in prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, to chart a path toward complete denuclearization and a lasting peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. I hope that the DPRK will decide to engage in serious negotiations with us to this end, and I personally look forward to seeing my North Korean counterparts across the table once again.

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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