Oct. 31 (UPI) -- The U.S. special envoy for North Korea proposed Seoul and Washington jointly inspect Pyongyang's Punggye-ri and Yongbyon nuclear sites, according to a South Korean press report.
Stephen Biegun, who met this week with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa and top officials in President Moon Jae-in's Cabinet, could be laying the foundation for negotiations between the United States and North Korea, television network MBC reported Wednesday.
The U.S. call for a joint inspection comes at a time when critics say Seoul and Washington appear to be unsynchronized on the pressing issue of North Korea denuclearization.
The Trump administration has called for complete denuclearization before the easing of any sanctions, but Moon has called for relaxing embargoes ahead of future dismantlement.
South Korean officials who spoke to MBC said the government would "positively" review the U.S. proposal.
The United States and North Korea are expected to hold high-level talks in New York on Nov. 9. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to meet again with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol, and the talks will include working-level discussions involving North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui.
The United States continues to remain on high alert with regard to North Korea's weapons program.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Tuesday at the United States Institute for Peace in Washington the North's nuclear and missile programs continue to pose an urgent threat, Voice of America reported.
Mattis said North Korea is clearly violating international sanctions and represents an unmistakable threat to peace and stability, according to the report.
North Korea is also using its financial resources to enrich elites while keeping the vast majority of the population in poverty.
Seoul's spy agency confirmed Wednesday the Kim Jong Un regime spends more than $525 million annually on luxury goods, Asia Economy Daily reported.
Spy agency chief Suh Hoon was speaking at a parliamentary audit and was responding to a question from Lee Eun-jae of the opposition Liberty Korea Party.