Biden Sends Nuclear Envoy to Seoul Amid North Korea Threats
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Joe Biden’s point man for North Korea was set to arrive in Seoul this weekend, days after Pyongyang threated a “security crisis” over U.S.-led military drills.
Sung Kim, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, will make a four-day trip starting Saturday to discuss issues including denuclearization on the peninsula, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement. It’s his second visit since June.
Sung Kim has said that the door with North Korea is open for nuclear disarmament discussions, including during his last trip. But a few hours before he was due to meet President Moon Jae-in in Seoul, Kim Jong Un’s sister saying the U.S. was “wrong” to believe that North Korea might be interested in returning to talks.
Sung Kim’s visit comes as North Korea appears to be stepping up a pressure campaign on Moon to push for sanctions relief before the pro-engagement president leaves office next year.
Moon’s government heralded a July 27 deal to restore cross-border communications that had been silent for more than a year as a turning point in talks with Kim Jong Un. But Pyongyang said the agreement was threatened by the U.S.-South Korea drills that started on Aug 16. and has in recent days stopped picking up phones for regularly scheduled calls with Seoul.
Russia’s nuclear envoy, Igor Morgulov, was expected to visit Seoul during Sung Kim’s stay in the capital, according to South Korean media including Yonhap News Agency.
North Korea declared no-sail zones for places off its eastern coast earlier this week, Yonhap reported. Pyongyang usually doesn’t tip its hand ahead of ballistic missile tests and the warning may be related to regular military exercises, Yonhap said.
North Korea tested two short-range ballistic missiles in March, the first since Biden took office. But it has so far refrained from the type of provocations it used when Barack Obama and Donald Trump began their presidencies, which included nuclear tests and long-range missile launches.
Even though North Korea may be facing some of the greatest food insecurity since Kim Jong Un took power almost a decade ago, the leader hasn’t given indication he’s willing to unwind his nuclear arsenal in return for economic incentives.
The current military drills between the U.S. and South Korea are “command post” exercises mostly taking place in bunkers out of public view by personnel sitting behind computer screens -- and do not entail masses of soldiers on the ground.
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