The top U.S. envoy for North Korea returned from three days of talks in Pyongyang and will meet again with his North Korean counterpart before the second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un later this month, the U.S. State Department said.
Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, landed at a U.S. air base south of Seoul on Friday evening. He is expected to brief South Korean officials about his visit to North Korea over the weekend.
Biegun and Kim Hyok Chol, North Korea’s special representative for U.S. affairs, discussed “advancing Trump and Kim’s Singapore summit commitments of complete denuclearization, transforming U.S.-DPRK relations, and building a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the State Department said in a statement.
It said that Biegun and Kim agreed to meet again before the leaders’ second summit, scheduled for Feb. 27-28 in Vietnam. The exact location of the summit hasn’t been announced yet.
Biegun is thought to have discussed specific disarmament steps that North Korea could promise at the Vietnam summit and what corresponding measures the United States is willing to take.
U.S.-led negotiations aimed at stripping North Korea of its nuclear weapons program has made little headway since the first Kim-Trump summit in Singapore last June, when Kim pledged to work toward the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, without providing a clear timetable or roadmap.
Experts say Kim is determined to win relief from U.S.-led sanctions to help revive his country’s troubled economy, while Trump, faced with domestic problems such as the Russian investigation, needs foreign policy achievements.
If the second summit fails to produce a breakthrough, skepticism about the current nuclear negotiations will grow. Some experts say North Korea is trying to use the negotiations to weaken the sanctions and buy time to perfect its weapons program.