Washington, Seoul assess Hanoi summit and Pyongyang denuclearization

A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) and US President Donald Trump (R) meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb. 28, 2019 (issued Mar. 1, 2019). EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON.- South Korea and the United States in Washington on Thursday held the first meeting of their bilateral working group to address the recent failed Hanoi summit between the leaders of the US and North Korea.

The two sides discussed their efforts to achieve their «goal of final, fully verified denuclearization» of North Korea, as well as the implementation of the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions, State Department spokesperson Robert Palladino said at a press conference.

The two sides also “reaffirmed their commitment to continue to regularly hosting these consultations and coordinations as alliance partners,» Palladino said.

The Seoul delegation was led by Rhee Dong-yeol, director general of the South Korean foreign ministry’s peninsula peace bureau, while the US delegation was led by Alex Wong, deputy assistant secretary for North Korea.

It was the first meeting after the Hanoi summit of the so-called «working group» established by the US and South Korea in November to give impetus to the dialogue with North Korea on denuclearization, in which Seoul has acted as a mediator between Washington and Pyongyang.

The meeting was scheduled to address ways to revitalize the process after the lack of agreement in Hanoi in February, Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday.

In addition, Seoul wanted to address the possibility of Pyongyang being exempted from some sanctions against it in order to hold video meetings of Korean families separated by the war that took place between 1950 and 1953, the agency said.

For the video-conference meetings to be held, it is necessary to transfer to the North certain equipment which is subject to sanctions on Pyongyang.

The summit held in February in Hanoi between Trump and Kim ended abruptly without agreement and highlighted the far-reaching differences between the two sides in their approaches to the denuclearization process and sanctions relief.

The US has said it wants to achieve denuclearization of North Korea before Trump’s mandate ends in Jan. 2021, but since the first summit in Singapore in June last year there has been no progress.

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