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(4th LD) U.S. looks forward to 'reliable, predictable, constructive' way forward with N. Korea: Sherman

Diplomacy 15:10 July 23, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 17-18)
By Song Sang-ho and Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, July 23 (Yonhap) -- The United States looks forward to a "reliable, predictable and constructive" way forward with North Korea, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Friday, redoubling calls for Pyongyang to respond to Washington's overtures for dialogue.

Sherman made the remarks after talks with First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun in Seoul, amid uncertainty over the resumption of nuclear diplomacy following Pyongyang's rejection of dialogue last month.

"We are looking forward to a reliable, predictable, constructive way forward with the DPRK," Sherman told reporters, referring to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "We have offered to sit in dialogue with the North Koreans, and we are waiting to hear from them."

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman speaks during a meeting with First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun at the foreign ministry in Seoul on July 23, 2021, in this photo provided by the ministry. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The deputy secretary also expressed concern over North Korean people facing multiple hardships.

"We all feel for the people of the DPRK, who are indeed, facing all the most difficult circumstances given the pandemic, and what it means as well for their food security," she said. "We only hope for a better outcome for the people of the DPRK."

Despite the U.S.' offer to meet with the North "anywhere, anytime without preconditions," North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Son-gwon has said that his country was not considering "even the possibility of any contact" with the U.S. That dampened optimism that emerged after leader Kim Jong-un signaled openness to dialogue.

Asked about China's role in addressing North Korea's nuclear issue, Sherman called it "certainly an area for cooperation."

"Thinking together about bringing the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is certainly an area for cooperation," she said.

Sherman plans to visit the northeastern Chinese port city of Tianjin on Sunday and Monday for talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and others, where North Korean issues will be discussed.

"I have no doubt that in my conversations in Tianjin in a few days, that we will discuss the DPRK. China certainly has interests and thoughts," she said.

At the start of the talks with Choi, Sherman said the agenda included regional challenges that "threaten to undermine the rules-based international order," while stressing Seoul and Washington are bound by "our common security interests" and "our common values of democracy and freedom."

Her remarks came as Washington has been hardening its stance against Beijing's policies on Hong Kong, the East and South China seas, and the Taiwan Strait, while warning against businesses with supply chain and investment links to the Xinjiang province, which Washington accuses of forced labor and rights abuses.

Beijing remains defiant, as President Xi Jinping has said in a recent speech for the Communist Party's centenary that potential adversaries would "crack their heads and spill blood on the Great Wall of steel" should they "bully, oppress or enslave" his country.

During the talks, Choi took note of Sherman's role in the Perry Process in 1999, saying the effort demonstrated that the Korean Peninsula issue can be settled through diplomacy.

Proposed by former Defense Secretary William Perry, the process refers to a three-stage proposal to tackle the North's nuclear problem, which involves the normalization of ties between the U.S. and the North.

"Since the launch of the Biden administration, bilateral communication and exchanges have continued without a pause even for a day," Choi said. "That attests to the fact that the South Korea-U.S. alliance is being upgraded into a sound alliance."

In a press release, the foreign ministry said that Choi and Sherman agreed to closely cooperate to tackle global challenges, such as climate change and public health, "based on shared values."

They also agreed to continue joint efforts for the acceleration of COVID-19 vaccine supplies across the world based on a global vaccine partnership that Presidents Moon Jae-in and Joe Biden agreed to forge at their summit in Washington in May.

Sherman arrived here Wednesday for a three-day visit, after she had trilateral talks with Choi and her Japanese counterpart, Takeo Mori, in Tokyo to highlight trilateral cooperation against a recalcitrant North Korea and an assertive China.

Sherman is set to depart for Mongolia later in the day.

First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun (R) and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman elbow bump each other before their talks at the foreign ministry in Seoul on July 23, 2021, in this photo provided by the ministry. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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