Embassy, State Dept. set up a kind of hotline

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Embassy, State Dept. set up a kind of hotline

The South Korean Embassy in Washington and U.S. Department of State established what they call a hotline system to regularize meetings in advance of the upcoming inter-Korean and U.S.-North summits, according to a senior government official Wednesday.

“For the success of the two summits, the embassy and the U.S. State Department agreed to continue to meet, exchange opinions and exchange information,” the South Korean official told reporters in Washington.

Korea will be represented by Ambassador to the United States Cho Yoon-jae, and his U.S. counterpart will be Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the official.

The two sides held a working meeting last week and Cho and Thornton are scheduled to hold a meeting on Monday. The establishment of the so-called hotline comes as Mike Pompeo, nominated to replace Rex Tillerson as U.S. secretary of state, is expected to take the post as soon as later this month. This would mean he would officially take over the diplomatic preparations for the upcoming North Korea-U.S. summit. Pompeo’s Senate confirmation kicks off Thursday.

The Korean Embassy in Washington expects to be able to be updated on the steps that the White House is taking toward preparation for what would be a historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un scheduled for May or June.

The official said that he is “considerably hopeful” about the North-U.S. summit, adding, “Those involved in the summit have a strong conviction that the failures of the past cannot be repeated, and know that the cost of not succeeding is too high.”

“We are currently waiting on the riverbank, and if we cross this river, surely the land on the other side will be great,” he said. “While the river ahead of us is wide and the currents torrential, we have to do whatever we can to successfully cross the river to reach that desired land.”

North Korea’s human rights abuses could be an issue raised in the summit with Kim, but denuclearization would be top on the agenda, said Heather Nauert, spokesperson of the U.S. State Department, in a briefing Tuesday.

“Typically when we have the opportunity and talk with countries where we have tremendous differences, that is something that does come up,” Nauert said. “I imagine that that would come up as well,” in reference to the human rights situation in the North.

She continued, “However, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which is something that Kim Jong-un said that he is willing to abide by and willing to work toward - I think that is obviously the top conversation. Other things may come up as well.”

On whether the United States and North Korea will share the same definition of denuclearization, Nauert replied, “I can’t speak for him; I can’t speak for his government.” But she continued on an optimistic note: “I can say that when they say they are ready to denuclearize, and we will have conversations about that, we go into those meetings in good faith, hoping for the very best, and so we look forward to having those conversations.”

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