US-South Korea Contemporary Relations

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Recently, United States president Joe Biden met his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae- in and has appointed a special envoy to engage North Korea in dialogue, explaining he and South Korea’s President remain deeply concerned about Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal, which is indeed not a new thing at all. At a joint news conference, Biden also revealed that he would meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the right time and situation.  President Biden told reporters at the White House that his ultimate goal was the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, but he was also “under no illusions” about the difficulty of getting North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenals. “We both are deeply concerned about the situation. Our two nations also share a willingness to engage diplomatically with North Korea to take pragmatic steps that will reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula. In order to help drive that effort, Biden added that veteran State Department official Sung Kim would serve as a special US envoy for North Korea. A Korean-American diplomat, Sung Kim served as a special envoy for North Korea under former President Barack Obama and helped set up former President Donald Trump’s summits with Kim. He has also been ambassador to South Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia and most recently served in an acting capacity as the top US diplomat for East Asia. Pyongyang has thus far rebuffed US entreaties for diplomacy since Biden took over from Trump, who had three summits with Kim and the two famously exchanged letters. Kim nonetheless refused to give up his nuclear weapons but did impose a freeze on testing them. He has not tested a nuclear bomb nor launched an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017, although experts believe his arsenal has steadily grown. Moon, for whom engagement with North Korea is a legacy issue before he leaves office next year, said Sung Kim’s appointment reflects the firm commitment of the US for exploring diplomacy and its readiness for dialogue with North Korea. He asserted that he expected a positive response. Asked if Biden would consider following up Trump’s headline-grabbing but ultimately fruitless summits with Kim, the US president said it would have to be on entirely different terms. The North Korean leader must commit to a “discussion about his nuclear arsenal”, Biden added, and allow his advisers to meet with their US counterparts to lay the groundwork ahead of such a summit. “I would not do what had been done in the recent past; I would not give him all he’s looking for international recognition as legitimate and allow him to move in the direction of appearing to be more serious about what he wasn’t at all serious about,” Biden further stated.

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