US to team up with S. Korea, Japan for unified approach toward NK’ By Kim Yoo-chul

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In this Feb. 28 file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un take a walk after their first meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel in Vietnam. AP-Yonhap

Despite the continued impasse in denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea, efforts to bring nuclear diplomacy back on track seem to be producing results as Washington remains open to negotiations with the North.

In a press briefing, top U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters the United States “remains open to talking and to negotiations with the North Koreans.”

“We’ve been able to get our North Korean counterparts to the table, where they have committed to the president and to the secretary of state that they will denuclearize. And, of course, we have Steve Biegun working on this diligently,” she said, Tuesday morning (KST).

Washington isn’t prepared to accept repeated requests by the North to lift economic sanctions as the spokeswoman said “sanctions do remain.” But Ortagus said the United States “remains confident” that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will see a path for a brighter future for North Korean citizens.

“And the path, if you look throughout history at any outcome or any successful negotiation, it’s never linear. There’s always ups and downs,” according to the spokeswoman. She stopped short of giving additional facts on the latest updates about the North Korean nuclear issue.

On the margins of the upcoming G20 Summit to be held in the Japanese city of Osaka, June 28 and 29, Pompeo plans to join Trump in meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to possibly coordinate on the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, and to discuss ways to strengthen “trilateral cooperation” with Seoul on the allies’ unified approach toward the North.

A few hours before the briefing, President Moon Jae-in, who’s been on a state trip to three Scandinavian countries, said he expects talks between the United States and North Korea and between the two Koreas would resume soon. “That’s because working-level talks aimed at keeping the momentum of denuclearization talks alive are still underway.”

During his state visit to Finland, Moon said Trump and Kim “never stop showing mutual respect and trust” to avoid further backtracking and to help restart the denuclearization talks.

“I don’t think we need assistance from a third country in arranging a third summit between the United States and North Korea,” he said.

Cheong Wa Dae said another inter-Korean summit is unlikely before the planned Trump-Moon encounter, June 30, given a lot of preconditions and considerations, though the presidential office is “trying hard on multiple fronts to make the meeting happen.”

“We aren’t putting much weight on that for the time being. But we would say something big could happen only if conditions are met,” a senior Cheong Wa Dae official said Tuesday. He added the South sent $8 million to the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF. The fund will be used to better care for pregnant women and children in the North.

North Korea didn’t respond to the comments by the U.S. and Cheong Wa Dae officials. Rather, its state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) called on the United States to “abandon its hostile policy” toward Pyongyang.

“The arrogant and unilateral U.S. policy will never work on the DPRK, which values sovereignty,” the KCNA said. The North’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

This week is the one-year anniversary since the Singapore summit. President Moon plans to deliver messages on the issue of the Korean peace process and why the North’s denuclearization matters, according to the presidential aide to the countries he is visiting.

“One year later, that’s what we are still aspiring to and still hoping for,” the U.S. State Department spokeswoman said.