S. Korea, U.S. hold inaugural session of N.K. working group

November 20, 2018

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 (Yonhap) — South Korea and the United States on Tuesday held the inaugural session of a working group designed to help coordination on efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

The two sides met in Washington as diplomatic efforts to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program have stalled since historic meetings between the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and his South Korean and U.S. counterparts.

The meeting was co-chaired on the South Korean side by Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon and on the U.S. side by Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun.

“The two nations reaffirmed the importance of the South Korea-U.S. alliance as a core pillar of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in the region,” Seoul’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The officials held “in-depth discussions” on complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the peninsula, implementation of U.N. Security Council sanctions on Pyongyang, and inter-Korean cooperation, it added.

They also agreed to continue their close coordination and cooperation on an “increasingly systemic and regular basis.”

This AP photo shows South Korea's Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon (R) during a meeting with U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on Oct. 29, 2018. (Yonhap)

This AP photo shows South Korea’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon (R) during a meeting with U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on Oct. 29, 2018. (Yonhap)

South Korea has been eager to expand inter-Korean projects to spur the denuclearization of the regime, while the U.S. has apparently been concerned by their potential negative impact on sanctions on Pyongyang.

Speaking to the issue, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there is “complete agreement” between the sides on how to proceed.

“We have made clear to the Republic of Korea that we do want to make sure that peace on the peninsula and the denuclearization of North Korea aren’t lagging behind the increase in the amount of inter-relationship between the two Koreas,” he said at a news conference earlier in the day. “We view them as tandem, as moving forward together. We view them as important parallel processes.”

The U.S. State Department said the working group meeting “further strengthened” the allies’ coordination on efforts to achieve “our shared goal of the final, fully verified denuclearization” of North Korea.

Lee and Biegun reaffirmed that the alliance is the “linchpin of peace and security” on the peninsula and in the region, it said in a statement.

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