U.S. envoy introduces reshuffled policy team

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U.S. envoy introduces reshuffled policy team

The Barack Obama administration’s newly reorganized North Korea policy team is transitioning seamlessly in Washington, according to Glyn Davies, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea policy, who paid a visit to Seoul this week.

Davies told reporters in the Korean capital on Tuesday that one of the main purposes of his trip was to introduce the new team, which will deal with U.S. policy on the Korean Peninsula. The group includes Allison Hooker, the new director for Korea at the National Security Council at the White House, as well as Sydney Seiler, who has served as the special envoy for the six-party talks since September.

Seiler and Hooker accompanied him on a weeklong three-nation trip to China, Korea and Japan, which concludes tomorrow.

These individuals are “familiar to everyone because they have been working on the Korean Peninsula from the standpoint of the U.S. government for many years, but they are now in new roles,” Davies said.

The ambassador held talks with his Korean counterpart Hwang Joon-kook, special representative for peace and security affairs on the Korean Peninsula, and Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se earlier on Tuesday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in central Seoul.

Seiler, a veteran Central Intelligence Agency analyst, was previously in charge of Korea policy at the White House’s National Security Council.

Hooker served as an East Asia and Pacific affairs analyst with the U.S. State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research, specializing in North Korean nuclear issues, and replaced Seiler as Obama’s director for Korea at the council.

However, the new policy team’s position toward Pyongyang is not likely to change.

Davies told reporters in Seoul that “at the center of this is a responsibility that lies at the feet of the regime in Pyongyang … to take action to fulfill its responsibilities to meet the expectations of its neighbors and the world, and to engage in meaningful discussions with all of us about denuclearization. It’s the single greatest threat, strategically, that all of us face.”

Stephen Bosworth, special envoy for North Korea policy from 2009 to 2011, helped the transition process for Davies. And Davies, then the outgoing U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, likewise, accompanied Bosworth on U.S.-Korea talks in October 2011 in Geneva.

“Usually it is rare for two top envoy-level officials to appear at such talks, so we were impressed that Bosworth brought along his successor Davies for the transition process,” a Korean foreign affairs official said.

But in contrast to Washington’s strong teamwork, Seoul did not have as smooth a transition. Seoul’s top envoy to the six-party talks to denuclearize North Korea, Lim Sung-nam, who was appointed as the ambassador to the United Kingdom, was replaced by Cho Tae-yong last year.

Cho was promoted as first vice minister of foreign affairs in February and finally replaced by Hwang in April, after his post had been left vacant for more than a month.

On his trip, Davies evaded questions about whether he was leaving his post, saying, “I’m always going to carry with me the passion and earnestness of our partners, in particular the Republic of Korea, in addressing these problems and changing the future of the Korean Peninsula.”

Sung Kim, the current U.S. ambassador to Korea, is expected to replace Davies as the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy.

In the meantime, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong is continuing diplomatic outreach for Pyongyang following a rare appearance last week at the United Nations General Assembly.

On Tuesday, he arrived in Moscow, where he was scheduled yesterday to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.



BY SARAH KIM, JEONG WON-YEOB [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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