U.S. wants ‘evidence’ of North’s sincerity

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U.S. wants ‘evidence’ of North’s sincerity

A South Korean government official said Tuesday that U.S. government officials recently called for “evidence that North Korea will denuclearize,” even as Pyongyang and Washington are trying to reschedule a high-level meeting in New York initially set for Nov. 8.

Meanwhile, North Korea has stepped up efforts to attract foreign investment - despite sanctions that forbid them - promising investors special perks and incentives to prevent any inconvenience.

The Seoul official said that so-called Track 1.5 strategic talks involving South Korean and U.S. government officials and civilian experts were held last week in the United States.

“A U.S. official expressed skepticism about North-U.S. negotiations [on denuclearization] during these talks,” said the Seoul official, who received a report on the meeting. This official said that initially, Stephen Biegun, the U.S. State Department’s special representative for North Korea, was set to attend the meeting “but he could not because of his busy schedule and another U.S. official attended instead.”

The official continued, “As South Korea explained North Korea’s position, the United States showed its position that what it wants to see is not explanations or analysis but evidence.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has already committed to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and Washington already knows what has been discussed in inter-Korean talks. So what Washington seems to want now is Pyongyang’s action toward denuclearization.

A South Korean official who took part in the Track 1.5 talks said that details of what was discussed could not be revealed because it was a closed-door meeting.

But the official added, “It is true that a U.S. official revealed a strong opposition in response to the South Korean delegation’s explanation that corresponding measures are needed from the United States, resulting in a moment of frostiness.”

Last week, South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon met with Frank Jannuzi, president of the Washington-based Mansfield Foundation, and Joseph Yun, the former U.S. special representative for North Korea, also emphasizing the need for corresponding measures from the United States during the North Korea denuclearization process.

Such corresponding measures, rather than the lifting of sanctions, could be a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War, or North Korea-U.S. cultural or civilian exchanges.

“There is division within the U.S. government in regard to President Donald Trump,” a former South Korean government official said. “In order for progress in negotiations with the North, there is a need for the United States to coordinate its position with South Korea and create a consensus domestically.” This former official added, “North Korea will be aware that the U.S. working level officials also hold a negative stance toward the North. That is why North Korea wants direct talks with President Trump or U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”

North Korea, in turn, has been pushing for sanctions relief from the international community and has stepped up its appeals for foreign investment.

A group of nearly 100 South Korean businesspeople living overseas led by Kim Deok-ryong, head of the World Federation of Korean Association of Commerce, made a four-day trip to Pyongyang starting last Wednesday.

The group met with North Korean officials related to the economy including Ri Ryong-nam, the vice premier for economic affairs who oversees investments.

Kim, also the executive vice chairman of the National Unification Advisory Council, told the JoongAng Ilbo Tuesday, “North Korea explained its general economic policy and has expectations to attract foreign investment.”

Kim added that the North “explained about some 20 special economic zones and that its plans to focus on manufacturing and the tourism industry” and “requested active investment when the conditions are right.”

It further conveyed that “companies or businessmen that invest in the North will be granted incentives,” and that investors doing business in North Korea will be provided perks “to avoid any inconveniences.”

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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