Trump’s Top North Korea Envoy Urges Kim to Return to Talks

U.S. President Donald Trump’s top North Korea envoy urged Kim Jong Un to return to talks, while expressing disappointment that negotiations since the two leaders first met didn’t achieve more.

Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Stephen Biegun made his appeal in a speech Thursday in Seoul that appeared intended to bolster the Trump administration’s legacy of unprecedented engagement with Pyongyang. Biegun expressed continued belief in the need for a “complete recasting of relations” between the two longtime enemies, while acknowledging it “has yet to deliver the success we hoped for.”

“You might wonder if I am disappointed that we did not accomplish more over the past two years. I am,” Biegun told the Asan Institute research center. “Regrettably, much opportunity has been squandered by our North Korean counterparts over the past two years, who too often have devoted themselves to the search for obstacles to negotiations instead of seizing opportunities for engagement.”

North Korea’s nuclear arsenal remains among the biggest foreign policy challenges awaiting U.S. President-elect Joe Biden despite Trump’s decision to hold face-to-face summits with the North Korean leader. Despite Kim’s vague commitment in 2018 to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” he has continued to advance his nuclear weapons program.

The two sides have made little progress since Trump walked out of his last summit with Kim in Hanoi in early 2019. Kim has since resumed launches of short-range ballistic missiles and in October paraded the world’s largest road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile through the streets of Pyongyang.

North Korea has long demanded a step-by-step and synchronized denuclearization process where it gets compensated during the process of denuclearization. Washington had wanted a commitment to complete denuclearization before economic sweeteners.

Biegun, who was making a four-day trip to Seoul before leaving office next month, urged Kim to return to talks.

“We do not expect North Korea to do everything before we do anything, nor should North Korea expect such an outcome from us,” he said. “But, we must agree to lay out a road map for action, and we must agree on where that road map ultimately leads.”

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