NK, US prepared for ‘results’ in nuke talks: FM
2 sides expected be more flexible at working-level talks
The United States and North Korea are prepared to “generate results” in their upcoming working-level nuclear disarmament talks with both sides pursuing a more flexible approach in a possible lead-up to another summit between the two countries’ leaders, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Wednesday.
“We cannot jump to conclusions, but as far as I know, both sides are fully prepared to achieve results in the upcoming negotiations,” Kang told lawmakers during a National Assembly annual audit of her ministry.
North Korea confirmed Tuesday evening that working-level denuclearization discussions with the U.S. would resume Oct. 5 at an “undisclosed location.” The restart comes after a months-long hiatus after the failed summit in Hanoi between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in February.
The foreign minister remained optimistic for potential success in the upcoming dialogue.
“My view is that the two sides will return to the talks with a more flexible stance,” Kang said. “Once the working-level talks generate a tangible outcome, discussions for a potential summit between Trump and Kim will take place.”
One of the key issues to be discussed during the talks will be how Washington can guarantee the security of the Kim regime in return for the North’s denuclearization. Last month, a North Korean diplomat said Pyongyang would discuss denuclearization with Washington only after “all potential obstacles and threats,” in the way of guaranteeing the security of the North, were “undoubtedly eliminated.”
Kang did not comment on how Washington would accomplish this.
The last working-level talks between the U.S. and the North took place in Sweden in January where North Korea‘s First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui engaged in three days of dialogue with her U.S. counterpart Stephen Biegun.
In the annual audit, Kang has been bombarded with questions from lawmakers regarding pending security matters on the peninsula, including the ongoing defense cost-sharing negotiations between Seoul and Washington.
The 11th round of discussions on cost-sharing for the upkeep of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), known as the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), began last month.
Washington is pressing Seoul to pay more amid Trump’s “America First” policy slogan, and reportedly asked the government to pay $5 billion (6 trillion won) for the 2020 SMA, but Kang flatly denied this speculation.
“We cannot confirm the exact figure, but the reported number is not what the U.S. asked for. Making public any details over the SMA is not good for our negotiating strategy. The firm stance of the ministry is that we will sign a deal at an appropriate level that the public and the Assembly can agree with,” she told the lawmakers.
In a document submitted to the Assembly, the foreign ministry also pledged to keep seeking a diplomatic breakthrough to resolve the ongoing trade and political row with Japan. The political confrontation between Seoul and Tokyo, which began after the Supreme Court here ruled last year that Japanese companies should provide compensation to surviving South Korean victims forced to work for them during the 1910-45 colonial era, is showing little sign of ending.
“We will continue to come up with diplomatic solutions acceptable to the public of the two countries and surviving victims,” the ministry said in the document.
Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said Wednesday that South Korea has asked Japan to share the specifics of North Korea’s launch of a missile believed to be a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) via the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).
“The Ministry of Defense asked Japanese authorities to share the specifics of North Korea’s missile via the GSOMIA as the military information-sharing pact between Seoul and Tokyo is still valid,” Jeong told lawmakers during the National Assembly’s annual audit of the Ministry of National Defense.
The minister added South Korea has no concrete information regarding data Japan had about the missile.
“But a missile can be loaded with a staging system and so if the separated components fell off, a radar would be able to detect the launch of one missile as two or three,” Jeong told lawmakers.
Jeong said there had been no formal request from the Japanese side.
Seoul had decided late August not to renew the GSOMIA in response to Japan’s earlier decision to remove South Korea from its list of countries receiving preferential treatment in trade. Japan citied “security” reasons for its decision.
The GSOMIA is set to expire on Nov. 24.
Jeong said the information sharing between the two countries will continue until its expiration.
Ahead of the audit, Cheong Wa Dae held a National Security Council (NSC) meeting over the missile launch presided over by National Security Office (NSO) chief Chung Eui-yong.
The NSO said it would review the possibility that the North conducted an SLBM test.
Also, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the unidentified ballistic missile was launched from the sea off the northeastern coast of Wonsan in the North’s Gangwon Province.
It flew around 450 kilometers at an apogee of 910 kilometers.
While Seoul said it detected one ballistic missile at 7:11 a.m., Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Japan that there were two missiles, with one falling within the country’s EEZ off Shimane Prefecture at 7:27 and the other outside the EEZ at 7:17 a.m.
The missile launch marked the 11th conducted this year.
It came a day after South Korea showcased its F-35A stealth fighter jets to mark the country’s 71st Armed Forces Day.
North Korea said Tuesday evening the working-level negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington would be held Saturday, following a preliminary meeting Friday.
North Korea has condemned South Korea’s introducing stateof-the-art weaponry as well as its joint military drills with the United States to be a violation of the inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) reached Sept. 19 last year.
South Korea has said North Korea’s missile launches were in violation of the “spirit” of the CMA. Seoul’s National Assembly on Sept. 30 passed a resolution of such claim, calling the North to stop “hostile” actions.
Military experts said the North’s latest launch could be of a Pukguksong-3 SLBM, an upgraded version of Pukguksong-1 (KN-11) and Pukguksong-2 launched four times from 2015 to 2016 and two times in 2017, respectively.
While a Pukguksong-1 uses liquid fuel and launched from a submarine, a Pukguksong-2 uses solid fuel and launched from the ground. A Pukguksong-3 is speculated to use liquid fuel and launched from a submarine.
They speculated the latest launch could be from the North’s “newly built submarine” that had been revealed through the country’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 23.
Pedestrians walk past a screen in Tokyo reporting about North Korea’s missile launch into the sea on Oct. 2.
Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo answers questions during the National Assembly audit of the Ministry of Defense at the ministry’s headquarters in Yongsan, downtown Seoul, Wednesday.