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(LEAD) Top U.S. nuclear envoy arrives in Beijing amid stalled N.K. nuke talks

North Korea 15:21 December 19, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, dateline, updates in para 1, 4 with Biegun's arrival to Beijing; CHANGES photo)
By Kim Seung-yeon

BEIJING/SEOUL, Dec. 19 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Biegun arrived in Beijing on Thursday amid speculation over whether he will meet with North Korean officials to talk about de-escalating tensions ahead of Pyongyang's year-end deadline for U.S. concessions.

The previously unannounced two-day trip comes after Biegun publicly offered to meet with North Korean officials during a visit to Seoul earlier this week, saying he's in the South just across the border and Pyongyang knows how to reach him.

But the North has not responded to Biegun's offer, at least publicly.

Biegun arrived at Beijing's Capital International Airport from Tokyo on Thursday afternoon. He is expected to meet with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui and other senior officials.

The State Department announced Biegun's China trip on Wednesday, spawning speculation over whether it could be related to the meeting offer he made to the North. The department only said Biegun will talk about "the need to maintain international unity" on North Korea.

North Korea has been ramping up pressure on the U.S. to come up with a new proposal in their stalled nuclear talks by the end of the year, strongly suggesting that it could otherwise restart testing of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Biegun said in Seoul that the U.S. has no deadline on nuclear negotiations with the North.

Reporters surround U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun after his arrival in Beijing on Dec. 19, 2019. (Yonhap)

Reporters surround U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun after his arrival in Beijing on Dec. 19, 2019. (Yonhap)

In Beijing, Biegun could discuss a U.N. Security Council resolution drafted by China and Russia calling for partial easing of sanctions on North Korea.

Early this week, the two countries proposed the draft resolution giving the North exemptions for inter-Korean rail and road projects, and exports of statues, seafood and textiles. The draft resolution also calls for lifting a ban on North Koreans working abroad and the termination of a requirement to repatriate all North Korean workers by Dec. 22.

Washington has called the resolution "premature," since the North is threatening with further provocations and refusing to hold talks.

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 recent rocket engine tests at its western satellite launch site.

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


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