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(2nd LD) S. Korea, U.S. discuss N. Korea issue in 'working group'

All News 16:05 December 07, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with nuclear envoy's meeting with U.S. experts in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korean and U.S. officials handling the North Korea issue held a working-level videoconference Friday to coordinate their policy and strategy.

In the session, which lasted for more than an hour, the two sides had "comprehensive discussions" on various issues related to inter-Korean relations and North Korea-U.S. dialogue, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

It came amid keen interest over when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will travel to Seoul. The Moon Jae-in administration hopes that Kim will keep his promise to visit Seoul before the end of this year, facilitating his second summit with President Donald Trump.

An image illustrating South Korea-U.S. working group consultations on North Korea (Yonhap)

An image illustrating South Korea-U.S. working group consultations on North Korea (Yonhap)

The allies launched the working group on Nov. 20 for "regular, systemic and formal" communication on North Korea policy, amid speculation about a possible rift between them on how to handle relations with Pyongyang.

The working group is co-headed by Lee Do-hoon, Seoul's special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Stephen Biegun, Washington's special representative for North Korea at the State Department.

But Lee and Biegun did not join the videoconference.

Rhee Dong-reol, director general of the ministry's peace diplomacy bureau, led the South Korean delegation, also including officials from the Ministry of Unification and the presidential office. The U.S. team was headed by Alex Wong, deputy assistant secretary of state for North Korea in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Lee and Biegun plan to meet once a month for the working group consultations.

Meanwhile, Lee had a luncheon meeting with a six-member visiting delegation from the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP), a nonprofit policy organization based in New York.

The delegation included Susan Elliott, president and CEO of the group; Raymond Burghardt, chairman of Pacific Century Institute; and Susan Thornton, former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Lee and the delegates talked about security conditions on the peninsula, including Washington-Pyongyang dialogue, the ministry said.


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