Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, the top U.S. official on U.S.-North Korean affairs, on Wednesday said that Washington is willing to resume talks with Pyongyang but disputed reports that he was seeking to meet with North Korean officials during a visit to South Korea.
“Let me absolutely be clear, we did not request a visit” with the North Koreans, Biegun told reporters after meeting with the lead South Korean nuclear negotiator. “This visit this week is to meet with our close friends and allies, the South Koreans.”
“We look forward to continuing our work for a peaceful outcome of the Korean peninsula, I believe this is very much possible,” he added.
Days earlier, Pyongyang’s chief negotiator Vice Foreign Minister Choe Sun Hui had said the nation would only resume talks if the U.S. ended its “hostile” policies and accused the U.S. of the “shallow tactic” of seeking to exploit Washington-Pyongyang relations for electoral advantages, according to state media.
Biegun responded to this Wednesday with a rare rebuke of a North Korean diplomat, comparing Choe to former White House national security adviser John Bolton. “Both are locked in an old way of thinking, focused on only the negatives and what is impossible, rather than thinking creatively about what is possible,” Biegun said.
Biegun also implied resuming talks would be a non-starter if it would mean continued negotiations with Choe. “When Chairman Kim [Jong Un] appoints a counterpart to me who is prepared and empowered to negotiate on these issues, they will find us ready at that very moment,” he said, according to the AP.