S. Korea, U.S. set for ‘working group’ session on N. Korea

Posted 2 months ago by Sandeep Bhattarai

S. Korea, U.S. set for 'working group' session on N. Korea

A South Korean official in charge of the peace regime issue left for the United States on Wednesday to hold a “working group” meeting.

Rhee Dong-yeol, director general of the foreign ministry’s Korean Peninsula peace regime bureau, plans to meet with Alex Wong, deputy assistant secretary of state for North Korea, in Washington, D.C. on Thursday (local time).

They will be joined by several other officials of the two sides handling North Korea affairs in the first face-to-face working group session since the unsuccessful Hanoi summit between the U.S. and North Korea late last month. Top agenda items include ways to revitalize the denuclearization process and Seoul’s pursuit of a sanctions waiver for the planned video reunions of separated families living on the other side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Some equipment needs to be brought into the North for the humanitarian project.

The allies are also expected to touch on Seoul’s push for inter-Korean economic cooperation, such as the resumption of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mount Kumgang tour program.But they won’t likely go into detail about the sensitive issue, with Washington-Pyongyang nuclear talks stalled.

In Hanoi, President Donald Trump rejected North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s offer of dismantling the Yongbyon nuclear facilities in exchange for sanctions relief. South Korea has stressed that it will seek economic cooperation with North Korea within the framework of the U.N.-led sanctions on Pyongyang.

In a new report, a panel of U.N. experts monitoring the implementation of the sanctions said the communist nation has continued illegal activities “enjoying ongoing access” to global financial firms and clandestine ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal.

The U.S. said it “takes allegations of U.N. sanctions violations seriously, and all Member States are expected to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions.” The South Korean government hailed the work of the committee.The report is expected to “be helpful to the effective implementation of sanctions on North Korea,” an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Washington’s chief envoy for Pyongyang, Stephen Biegun, said his country remains willing to talk with North Korea, but he made clear that it wants a package deal, not an incremental approach favored by Pyongyang. Biegun met with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon, in Washington last week. Lee also met with U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris in Seoul on Tuesday.

The Moon Jae-in administration is exploring how to facilitate negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington, while maintaining close coordination with the ally.

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