U.S. envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun says the Trump administration is ready to resume stalled negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program.
Speaking Wednesday in Seoul where he was meeting with South Korean officials, Biegun said the United States is “prepared to engage as soon as we hear from our counterparts in North Korea.”
President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter earlier this month that he had received a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressing a desire “to meet and start negotiations” after the conclusion of U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises, which ended Tuesday.
North Korea considers the exercises a threat to its existence, and since late last month it carried out six short-range ballistic missile tests that Kim said were in response to the drills.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday he was concerned about the latest missile tests, disagreeing with Trump, who has shrugged off their importance.
“I wish that they would not” launch the missiles, the top U.S. diplomat told CBS News.
The two latest projectiles, fired last Friday, flew 230 kilometers into the waters off North Korea, but, aimed differently, could reach South Korea as well as American troops and civilians living there.
Trump has voiced his discontent as well, not about North Korea’s missile tests, but about the costs of the military drills with Seoul.
Asked about the missile tests, Trump told reporters, “I have no problem. These are short-range missiles.”
Trump called the missiles “smaller ones.” He said earlier this month that Kim had sent him “a really beautiful letter” that included a “small apology” for conducting the missile tests.
The U.S. leader has held out hope that he can bring about Pyongyang’s denuclearization by the time his first term in the White House ends in January 2021.
Pompeo acknowledged in the CBS interview, however, that the United States and North Korea “haven’t gotten back to the table as quickly as we would have hoped” to continue the nuclear weapons talks.
Pompeo said the U.S. knew “there will be bumps along the way” in the negotiations.
“We hope Chairman Kim will come to the table and a get a better outcome” than by maintaining North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, he said.
“It will be better for the North Korean people,” Pompeo concluded. “It’ll be better for the world.”