Saturday, February 23, 2019 | ePaper

Hard work still needed before Kim-Trump summit: US envoy

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US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun says he was confident progress was being made ahead of the summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

AFP, Seoul :
There was still some hard work to be done ahead of the upcoming summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a Washington envoy said on Saturday.
Stephen Biegun, the US Special Representative for North Korea, said three days of preparatory talks in Pyongyang that ended Friday had been productive, but more dialogue was needed ahead of the summit scheduled for Vietnam from February 27-28.
Biegun on Saturday briefed South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa on his Pyongyang visit, also confirming the summit would be held in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.
"We have some hard work to do with the DPRK," Biegun told Kang, adding:
"I'm confident that if both sides stay committed we can make real progress here.
"We don't know where it's going to go, but we are in the midst of a conversation  our discussions (with Pyongyang) were productive."
Kang told Biegun that the US had South Korea's "full support" for the summit.
The US State Department said Biegun will meet again with Pyongyang officials ahead of the Trump-Kim talks
Trump earlier announced Hanoi as the venue in a tweet, saying: "I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim & advancing the cause of peace."
At their landmark summit in Singapore last year, the mercurial US and North Korean leaders produced a vaguely worded document in which Kim pledged to work towards "the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula".
But progress has since stalled, with the two sides disagreeing over what that means.
Experts say tangible progress on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons will be needed for the second summit if it is to avoid being dismissed as "reality TV".
On Friday Trump tweeted that North Korea will become a "great Economic Powerhouse" under Kim.
"He may surprise some but he won't surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is," said Trump.  Attention will now be on whether the US team have offered to lift some economic sanctions in return for Pyongyang taking concrete steps toward denuclearisation.
Discussions on declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War could also have been on the table, with Biegun last week saying Trump was "ready to end this war". The three-year conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas still technically at war, with the US keeping 28,500 troops in the South.
Experts say the most likely scenario in Vietnam is that the concerned parties - North and South Korea, the US, and China - to declare a formal end to the war as a political statement.
At their landmark summit in Singapore last year, the mercurial US and North Korean leaders produced a vaguely worded document in which Kim pledged to work towards "the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".
But progress has since stalled, with the two sides disagreeing over what that means.
Experts say tangible progress on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons will be needed for the second summit if it is to avoid being dismissed as "reality TV". On Friday, Trump tweeted that North Korea will become a "great Economic Powerhouse" under Kim.
"He may surprise some but he won't surprise me, because I have gotten to know him and fully understand how capable he is," said Trump.
But Park Won-gon, a professor at South Korea's Handong University, said Trump's remarks may not align with Pyongyang's current agenda.
"What Pyongyang wants now, more than anything, is the lifting of the existing sanctions," Park told AFP. "The idea of being an economic powerhouse may sound too vague and even unrealistic for them at this moment."
North Korea, which holds most of the peninsula's mineral resources, was once wealthier than the South, but decades of mismanagement and the demise of its former paymaster the Soviet Union have left it deeply impoverished.
In 2017, the United Nations Security Council banned the North's main exports - coal and other mineral resources, fisheries and textile products - to cut off its access to hard currency in response to Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

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