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U.S. discussed North Korea with South before contact attempts, Seoul says

U.S. discussed North Korea with South before contact attempts, Seoul says
The United States has tried since February, according to reports, to make contact with North Korea, which is led by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

March 15 (UPI) -- The United States engaged in "prior consultation" with South Korea before reaching out to Pyongyang in an attempt to initiate engagement, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said Monday at a regular press briefing that the two countries have been "closely communicating" and "cooperating" throughout the North Korea policy review process of U.S. President Joe Biden's administration, South Korean television network KBS reported.

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"In the process of the U.S. North Korea policy review, the [South Korean] government also has had opportunities to share various opinions, hold discussions," Lee said.

"It is also our understanding that the ideas of the Ministry of Unification are being conveyed through such opportunities for consultation."

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The statement from Seoul comes after reports over the weekend indicated that the Biden administration has been trying to contact Pyongyang since February, but has received no reply.

Several contact methods were used, U.S. officials had said, ahead of a plan to unveil a U.S. policy review on North Korea in April, according to the BBC on Sunday.

Biden had pledged to strengthen U.S. alliances around the world and has sent members of his Cabinet visit to Japan for talks centered on deterrence and joint defense against China.

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In South Korea, the United States resumed joint drills with Seoul last week. Pyongyang has stayed silent on the ongoing training, according to KBS.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin plan to travel to Seoul, and are expected to arrive in South Korea on Wednesday.

Analysts said the alleged U.S. disclosure about North Korea's lack of response could mean Biden wants South Korean President Moon Jae-in to step back from pushing for U.S.-North Korea dialogue, local paper Hankook Ilbo reported Monday.

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J. James Kim, senior fellow of the Center for American Politics and Policy at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said the United States may have "intentionally" disclosed the activity with South Korean demands in mind, according to Hankook Ilbo.

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