U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said on Wednesday there had been no concrete evidence that North Korea had made a decision to give up its nuclear weapons, but he still believed Pyongyang could make this choice. He made the remarks in prepared testimony presented to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in his nomination hearing for the State Department’s No. 2 post.
Biegun has led U.S. efforts to try to persuade North Korea to denuclearize since last August, with little success so far. Biegun’s latest remarks came after repeated statements from North Korea in recent days that it has no interest in talks with the United States unless the U.S. ends what it called a policy of hostility.
Earlier on Wednesday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted North Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui as saying that discussions related to the nuclear issue might have been taken off the negotiating table give the U.S. attitude. “I think the nuclear issue can be discussed again when the U.S. abolishes all hostile policies toward North Korea,” it quoted her as saying during a visit to Moscow.
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have met three times since last year to push forward negotiations Washington hopes will lead to North Korea dismantling its nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea has been demanding that sanctions hobbling its economy be lifted, and in April, Kim set a year-end deadline for Washington to show more flexibility. That raised concerns that North Korea could resume nuclear and long-range missile testing suspended since 2017 that Trump has repeatedly held up as a major achievement of his engagement with North Korea.