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(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. nuke envoys to meet in Europe over N. Korea denuclearization

All Headlines 11:12 July 07, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS headline; ADDS more info in 4th para)

SEOUL, July 7 (Yonhap) -- Top U.S. nuclear envoy Stephen Biegun will travel to Europe this week to meet with European officials and his South Korean counterpart to discuss ways to achieve North Korea's denuclearization, the U.S. government has said.

Biegun will visit Brussels on Monday and Tuesday and Berlin on Wednesday and Thursday for meetings with European officials and Lee Do-hoon, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, the U.S. State Department said Saturday.

The meetings aim "to advance our shared efforts to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea," it said in a statement.

South Korea's foreign ministry said Lee will meet Biegun in Berlin to discuss ways to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and bring permanent peace to the region. Lee, who will travel to Germany from Tuesday to Friday, also plans to meet with German foreign ministry officials, it said.

Biegun's trip comes after U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to resume working-level nuclear talks between the two countries when they held a surprise meeting at the inter-Korean border on June 30.

The nuclear talks have been stalled since February's no-deal summit between Kim and Trump.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he expects the working-level talks to resume in mid-July.

Lee Do-hoon (R), South Korea's top nuclear envoy, shakes hands with his U.S. counterpart Stephen Biegun at the headquarters of the foreign ministry in Seoul on June 28, 2019, before holding talks on North Korea's denuclearization. (Yonhap)

Biegun's trip seems be aimed at discussing with European officials possible venues for the working-level talks amid speculation that European countries including Sweden may be chosen for the negotiations.

The Hanoi summit broke down due to a failure to narrow differences over the scope of the North's denuclearization and sanctions relief by Washington.

Corresponding measures that the U.S. is considering to offer reportedly include the provision of humanitarian assistance and the establishment of a liaison office in North Korea.

Experts said the possibility that Biegun may meet with North Korean officials in Europe cannot be excluded.

In January, the U.S. and North Korea held working-level talks in Sweden to prepare for the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi.

North Korea apparently picked Kim Myong-gil, a former ambassador to Vietnam, as its new chief nuclear envoy, according to a diplomatic source. If confirmed, he will replace Kim Hyok-chol, who is rumored to have been purged after the no-deal summit between Trump and Kim in February.


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