S Korea, US to continue close cooperation on N Korea’s denuclearisation

Washington: South Korea and the United States have agreed to continue close cooperation on North Korea’s denuclearisation exercise, just days after Washington and Pyongyang failed to reach an agreement over the same at the Hanoi summit.

On Wednesday, talks were held between Lee Do-hoon, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs and his American counterpart Stephen Biegun in Washington DC.

In a statement, South Korea’s foreign ministry said “the current moment is a very sensitive period for progress in North Korea-US dialogue going forward”, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The meeting also underlined the “wide gap” between North Korea and South Korea over denuclearisation and peace-building process.

The two sides also stressed that both South Korea and the United States have a strong partnership over North Korea issue through various diplomatic channels and agreed to maintain “communication and consultations,” the foreign ministry said.

This is the first meeting of the two nuclear envoys after US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met for the second time in Hanoi on February 27-28.

The summit ended abruptly as Trump and Kim walked out of the meeting without striking a deal. According to reports, both the leaders showed disagreement over the steps Pyongyang must take to rid of nuclear weapons.

Trump on Wednesday said that he would be “very disappointed” if reports on North Korea restoring parts of the nuclear missile site were confirmed to be true.

The statement by the US President has come after South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) on Tuesday informed that North Korea has been restoring part of the Dongchang-ri nuclear missile launch site in Yongbyon, located north of Pyongyang.

The 5-megawatt graphite-moderated reactor, capable of yielding five to seven kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium annually, was dismantled late last year, with no signs of reprocessing activities there anymore.

Trump did not confirm or deny the reports, however, asserted that it may prove to be a hurdle once again in reaching a peace agreement with North Korea.

At the same time, the US President seemed confident in reiterating that Washington would soon reach an agreement with Pyongyang.

Previously, both the countries had reached an impasse regarding sanctions relief for Pyongyang soon after the first summit in Singapore in June last year, leading to extremely slow progress on the denuclearisation front.