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(LEAD) Biegun to visit China to discuss N. Korea

North Korea 08:30 December 18, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with details from 5th para; ADDS photo)
By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun will visit Beijing later this week to discuss the need to maintain international unity on North Korea, the State Department said Tuesday.

Biegun will be in the Chinese capital on Thursday and Friday following visits to Seoul and Tokyo, the department said in a brief statement.

He will "meet with (Chinese) officials to discuss the need to maintain international unity on North Korea," it said, indicating the U.S. official will urge Beijing to keep up sanctions pressure on Pyongyang.

On Monday, China and Russia proposed a draft United Nations resolution calling for the lifting of some sanctions on the North.

This photo shows U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun at Gimpo International Airport, near Seoul, en route to Japan on Dec. 17, 2019. (Yonhap)

A State Department spokesperson called the proposal premature, saying the North is threatening to conduct an "escalated provocation" and refusing to meet to discuss denuclearization.

North Korea has demanded sanctions relief as part of a potential deal with the United States on dismantling its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

It has urged Washington to offer such concessions before the end of the year and hinted at resuming nuclear and long-range missile tests if its demands are not met.

Biegun was in Seoul from Sunday to Tuesday to discuss the way forward with South Korean officials. He publicly offered to meet with the North Koreans during his stay, but departed for Japan with his call unanswered.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday that he would be disappointed if something was "in the works" in North Korea, apparently referring to two presumed rocket engine tests at the country's western satellite launch site on Dec. 7 and 13.

"We're watching it very closely," the U.S. president said, adding that the U.S. would "take care of it" if something was under way.


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