Fri. 8:26 a.m.: Top US envoy returns to South Korea after North Korea visit
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The top U.S. envoy for North Korea returned to South Korea today after three days of talks in Pyongyang to work out details of a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
South Korea’s government couldn’t immediately confirm the report.
Trump said Wednesday that he will hold a summit with Kim in Vietnam on Feb. 27-28. But he didn’t say where in Vietnam they would meet or what specifically they would discuss. North Korea’s state media have not commented on the plans.
Yonhap said Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, landed at a U.S. air base in Osan, just south of Seoul. He is expected to brief South Korean officials about his visit to North Korea over the weekend.
Before going to Pyongyang, Biegun was in Seoul for talks with South Korean officials about the next summit between Trump and Kim, who first met last June in Singapore.
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 diplomacy aimed at stripping North Korea of its nuclear weapons program has made little headway since the Singapore summit, 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 diplomacy 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.