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U.S. special envoy seeks working-level talks with North Korea

By Elizabeth Shim
U.S. special envoy seeks working-level talks with North Korea
U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun met with South Korean officials in Seoul on Monday. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

Oct. 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. special envoy for North Korea is open to working-level talks with Pyongyang -- at the earliest possible date, according to South Korean press reports.

Stephen Biegun, the former Ford Motor executive who assumed office in August following the unexpected resignation of Joseph Yun, met with his South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon on Monday in Seoul, local news service Tongil News reported.

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Biegun said the United States shares with Seoul the goal of officially ending the 1950-53 Korean War and that he is confident this goal can be reached.

"The primary requirement for us to get to the end point is to achieve final, fully, verified denuclearization of North Korea. I am absolutely confident this is within reach," Biegun added, according to CNBC.

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Lee said he hoped the U.S. representative could meet with North Korean officials "as soon as possible, in order to find a breakthrough to the current situation."

Biegun most recently accompanied U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang, but was unable to meet with his North Korean counterpart Choe Son Hui due to schedule conflicts. Choe was in China and Russia for trilateral meetings that focused on easing sanctions.

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Critics have said the United States and South Korea are increasingly uncoordinated on North Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has prioritized engagement, while the Trump administration wants more actions from Pyongyang before resuming diplomacy.

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U.S. Forces Korea has been working with Seoul to implement recent agreements, however.

Yonhap reported Monday Vincent Brooks, commander of the United Nations Command, U.S. Forces Korea and the Combined Forces Command, said he would carry out the military portion of the Panmunjom Declaration signed by Kim Jong Un and Moon.

Brooks said the U.N. Command has inspected the reduction of military outposts in the demilitarized zone to lay the foundation for future implementation of the agreement, according to the report.

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North and South agreed to withdraw front-line guard posts last week.

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