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Biegun to visit Seoul amid expectation for resumption of nuke talks with N.K.

Diplomacy 09:31 August 20, 2019

SEOUL, Aug. 20 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun was set to visit Seoul on Tuesday, amid growing expectations for the resumption of working-level nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

Biegun's three-day visit will coincide with the end of the South Korea-U.S. military exercise, during which Pyongyang shunned negotiations with Washington, launched a fusillade of projectiles into the East Sea and hardened its rhetoric against Seoul.

His trip here also comes as South Korea is mulling whether to renew a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, seen as a crucial element of Washington's security cooperation with its two Asian allies that are mired in a spat over trade and history.

On Wednesday, Biegun plans to hold talks with Seoul's top nuclear negotiator, Lee Do-hoon, and other senior officials, to coordinate the allies' stances ahead of the possible resumption of talks with the North.

Washington and Pyongyang were expected to resume the working-level talks last month based on an agreement between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their impromptu talks at the inter-Korean border on June 30.

But the talks have not been held amid tensions over the combined military exercise between Seoul and Washington, which Pyongyang has berated as a rehearsal for invasion.

Trump has tweeted that in a recent letter to him, the North Korean leader expressed his desire to relaunch the talks with the U.S. as soon as the allied exercise ends.

Biegun's plan for the visit here has spawned speculation that he could hold talks with the North Korean side in the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom. But some observers said that his stay here this time appears too short to meet North Koreans.

Some analysts raised the possibility that in Seoul, the U.S. diplomat could stress the importance of trilateral cooperation with South Korea and Japan that are mired in a rancorous row over trade and history.

Before his trip here, Biegun visited Japan for two days.

This photo, taken June 28, 2019, shows South Korea's top nuclear negotiator, Lee Do-hoon, talking with his U.S. counterpart, Stephen Biegun, at the foreign ministry in Seoul. (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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