The United States has designated a special envoy to restart stalled nuclear talks with North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced on Wednesday.
“The appointment of a special representative to North Korea by the United States is equivalent to requesting that North Korea resume dialogue,” Moon said at a press conference with the leaders of South Korea’s main political parties following his travel to the United States last week.
During Moon’s visit, which lasted from May 19 to Sunday, U.S. President Joe Biden named career diplomat Sung Kim, currently ambassador to Indonesia, as special envoy to North Korea.
Moon told the party leaders that his summit with Biden on Friday “exceeded expectations.”
“A solid consensus has been established between the ROK and the United States to advance the peace process on the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said. The Republic of Korea is the official name of South Korea.
Moon said that a joint statement issued with Biden uses previous agreements with North Korea, including the 2018 Singapore Declaration between then-President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, “as a starting point for diplomacy and dialogue.”
On the basis of these agreements “it is possible to resume dialogue and start the peace clock again,” Moon said.
The June 2018 summit in Singapore produced a joint declaration in which Kim “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” while Trump committed to providing security guarantees to North Korea.
Nuclear talks between the US and North Korea, however, have stopped following the failure of a second Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February 2019. Pyongyang has sought concessions like as the relaxation of international sanctions in exchange for taking measures towards eliminating its nuclear weapons, but Washington insisted on total denuclearization first.
Last June, North Korea shut off all direct ties with the South and demolished a joint inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong, its border city.
Biden said during a joint press conference with Moon on Friday that he would not rush to meet with the North Korean leader without certain conditions in place, however.
“I would not do what had been done in the recent past,” Biden said. “I would not give [Kim] all that he’s looking for: international recognition as legitimate and allow him to move in a direction of appearing to be more serious about what he was not at all serious about.”
Biden said he would consider meeting Kim only if a commitment for “discussions about his nuclear arsenal” were in place, based on an “outline made that my Secretary of State and others would have negotiated as to how we would proceed.”
On Wednesday, Moon emphasised other key takeaways from his meeting with Biden, such as the relaxation of long-standing constraints on South Korea’s capacity to develop its own long-range missiles and Washington’s vow to deliver vaccinations to 550,000 South Korean troops, which he described as a “a very meaningful gift.”
“As security and peace cooperation between South Korea and the United States has been further strengthened, the breadth and depth of cooperation has greatly expanded in all areas, including the economy and technology, health and vaccines and response to climate change,” Moon added.