S. Korea, U.S. hold second 'working group' meeting on N. Korea
SEOUL, Dec. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States opened their second "working group" meeting on North Korea here Friday, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voicing optimism about another summit with the communist nation.
Seoul's top nuclear envoy, Lee Do-hoon, and his American counterpart, Stephen Biegun, co-chaired a session on denuclearization amid months of quiet in related dialogue.
The two sides will also discuss inter-Korean relations and sanctions and are further represented by Lee Dong-yeol, director-general for Korean Peninsula Peace regime at the ministry, and Alex Wong, deputy assistant secretary of state for North Korea.
Officials from the White House, South Korea's presidential office and the unification ministry also joined the talks.
Coordinating an approach toward Pyongyang is high on agenda. Concerns have grown about a possible mismatch of progress in denuclearization talks and inter-Korean cooperation.
The two Koreas plan to hold a groundbreaking ceremony next week for their joint project to modernize and reconnect cross-border roads and railway tracks. It will be held at Panmun Station in the North's border town of Kaesong on Wednesday.
The liberal Moon Jae-in administration is also pushing for the shipment of US$8 million worth of humanitarian assistance to the North through international agencies.
Starting his visit to Seoul on Wednesday, Beigun, Washington's special representative for North Korea, signaled that his government will resume large-scale humanitarian assistance for the North.
It's an apparent incentive for Pyongyang in a bid to revitalize the denuclearization talks. It's uncertain, however, whether the Kim Jong-un regime will be satisfied with it.
The North claims it has done enough in terms of initial denuclearization steps and demands sanctions relief and political rewards, including the declaration of a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
The top U.S. diplomat, meanwhile, struck an upbeat note on a plan to arrange a second meeting between President Donald Trump and the North's leader early next year.
"We're very hopeful that we can make a significant step," he said in a local radio interview. "I am hopeful that not too long after the first of the year we can get the two of them together and make another substantial step along the way towards creating a reduced threat to the United States from North Korea's nuclear weapons arsenal."
South Korea and the U.S. launched the working group consultation channel in November.
They cited the need for close coordination on efforts to achieve the shared goal of the "final, fully verified denuclearization" and lasting peace on the peninsula.
The other key topics are inter-Korean cooperation and the implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
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