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(LEAD) U.S. nuclear envoy to visit S. Korea, Japan next week: source

All News 20:15 July 04, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 5, 11-13)

SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) -- The top U.S. envoy for North Korea will visit South Korea and Japan next week amid stalled denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang, a diplomatic source here said Saturday.

According to the source, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun will meet with officials in Seoul early next week, likely Tuesday, and spend three days here before hopping over to Tokyo.

"Biegun may be accompanied on this trip by Allison Hooker, who is the National Security Council's senior director for Asian affairs at the White House," the source added.

Biegun is expected to make himself available for the South Korean press during his stay and to meet with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon, and other Seoul officials.

Multiple diplomatic sources said Biegun will not visit China during this upcoming trip to Asia.

The trip comes after South Korean President Moon Jae-in committed to working toward a fourth meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un before the U.S. presidential election in November.

Trump and Kim have met three times to try to reach a deal on dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program in exchange for U.S. concessions.

The two sides have failed to make progress since their second summit in February 2019 ended abruptly due to differences over the scope of North Korea's denuclearization and sanctions relief from the U.S.

Biegun said this week that he believes another summit is unlikely before the election, citing COVID-19 as a reason.

But he added there is still time to make "substantial progress."

Former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton has said Trump could meet with Kim if he believes a summit would improve his chances of being re-elected. That summit could happen as an "October surprise," Bolton added.

But earlier Saturday, North Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said Pyongyang saw no need to meet with Washington for talks.

"There will never be any adjustment and change in our policy, conditional on external parameters like the internal political schedule of someone," Choe said. "We do not feel any need to sit face to face with the U.S.," she added, as Washington considers the DPRK-U.S. dialogue "as nothing more than a tool for grappling its political crisis."

This file photo, from Dec. 17, 2019, shows U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun at Gimpo International Airport in Seoul on his way to Japan. (Yonhap)


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