SEOUL – A senior U.S. diplomat said Monday that Washington won’t accept a year-end deadline set by North Korea to make concessions in stalled nuclear talks and urged Pyongyang to return to a negotiating table immediately.
“On this point, let me be absolutely clear: The United States does not have a deadline,” Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, told reporters. “We are fully aware of the strong potential for North Korea to conduct a major provocation in the days ahead. To say the least, such an action will be most unhelpful in achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
Biegun, who was in Seoul for talks with South Korean officials, called on North Korea to sit down for talks.
“Let me speak directly to our counterparts in North Korea: It is time for us to do our jobs. Let's get this done. We are here. And you know how to reach us,” he said.
Biegun later held separate meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, Seoul’s point man on North Korea. Moon’s office said that during his visit to the presidential Blue House, Biegun said the Trump administration wouldn't give up on seeking diplomatic progress with North Korea, but it did not elaborate further.
It's unclear if North Korea will reach out to the U.S. to resolve their widening differences on how to achieve North Korean denuclearization.
Senior North Korean officials have recently said denuclearization is already off the negotiating table and have threatened to lift a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. In past months, North Korea has also conducted a slew of short-range missile and other weapons tests.
Worries about a major North Korean provocation grew after the country said Saturday that it had successfully performed an unspecified “crucial test” that will strengthen its nuclear deterrent. Experts say the North could launch a satellite-carrying rocket or an intercontinental ballistic missile if the U.S. fails to meet the year-end deadline.