Biegun and UN delegations to discuss North

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Biegun and UN delegations to discuss North

The top U.S. envoy in the denuclearization negotiations with North Korea arrived in New York on Tuesday to meet with the delegations of United Nations Security Council permanent member states before they convene a meeting to discuss Pyongyang’s recent provocations.

According to the U.S. State Department, the Special Representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for North Korea Alex Wong were due to meet with UN permanent representatives - composed of envoys from the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - during a lunch hosted by the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft.

With a State Department brief saying Wednesday’s meeting would cover a “comprehensive update on recent developments on the Korean Peninsula,” Biegun is expected to seek the support of the international community - most notably from Beijing and Moscow, North Korea’s closest partners - in dissuading Pyongyang from conducting a major provocation later this month.

The Security Council was set to convene Wednesday at the request of the United States as a result of Pyongyang’s presumed rocket engine test at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station on Saturday, a move widely regarded as preparation - at least feigned - for a long-range missile test sometime before the end of the year, which is the deadline set by the North for the United States to end its “hostile policy.”

Biegun has sought consultations with the UN body at key moments throughout the negotiation process with North Korea, asking for the Council’s cooperation in March, following the collapse of the second U.S.-North Korea summit at Vietnam in February, and again in June, around the anniversary of the first summit in Singapore.

While not currently a sitting member of the Council, whose non-permanent members are seated on a rotating basis, South Korea is also set to partake in Wednesday’s Security Council conference as an interested party, according to its Foreign Ministry.

Yet provided there has been no actual long-range missile test from Pyongyang yet, the Council is not expected to produce a new resolution condemning the North. Even after the regime tested the Hwasong-14, a purported intercontinental ballistic missile, in 2014, it took weeks of debate between member states before China and Russia relented on producing a resolution sanctioning the North in August that year.

A report from Japan’s Kyodo News on Tuesday said Biegun is likely to follow up on this visit to the UN with a trip to South Korea on Sunday, according to a remark last week from White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien who said Biegun would soon visit the region.

The envoy, who was nominated by U.S. President Donald Trump as deputy secretary of state in October, is likely to meet with his South Korean counterpart, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon, and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.

Perhaps the more salient question is whether Biegun will attempt to contact North Korea, possibly through a channel on the inter-Korean border at Panmunjom.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]

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