By Lee Haye-ah
WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (Yonhap) -- The United States is ready to negotiate the dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons program while continuing to apply pressure on the regime, the No. 2 U.S. envoy for North Korea said Wednesday.
Alex Wong, deputy special representative for North Korea, made the remark during a confirmation hearing on his nomination as U.S. alternate representative for special political affairs in the United Nations.
"The U.S. is ready," he said during the virtual hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We have a strong team here, an interagency team ready to negotiate. But we need to continue on the strategy, continue on the pressure, continue to galvanize the world behind the consensus strategy of using pressure again to channel North Korea to productive negotiations."
Nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since February 2019 when U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un cut their second summit short due to differences over the scope of North Korea's denuclearization and sanctions relief from the U.S.
Trump has said he would be open to a fourth meeting with Kim if it was "helpful." The North Koreans have rejected the notion of another summit as long as the U.S. sticks to its "hostile policy" toward the North.
"The good thing about the work we've done at the leader level is that we have something we haven't had, which is a leader-level commitment to complete denuclearization of North Korea," Wong said, referring to Kim's agreement during his first summit with Trump in June 2018 to "work toward" complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
"But I'll be the first to tell you," Wong continued, "that we have not yet done the working-level negotiations, the hard work of the negotiations that we need to do to develop the roadmap to realize that objective."
The last time the two sides sat down for working-level negotiations was in October in Sweden. Those talks also ended without a breakthrough.
Wong noted that the objective of Trump's policy and the negotiations is the "final and fully verified denuclearization of North Korea."
He also said China has a role to play, including through the enforcement of U.N. sanctions against the North.
"They have done a lot to implement those sanctions as far as taking down the two-way trade to really, extremely low levels with North Korea," he said. "But there continues to be more work that China can do, particularly on sanctions enforcement."
Wong added that he has not had a chance to fully review the confidential U.N. report that news outlets reported states the North appears to have developed miniaturized nuclear devices to fit atop its ballistic missiles.
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