U.S., South Korea hold video conference on North Korea

Dec. 7 (UPI) — The United States and South Korea held a working-level group meeting to discuss North Korea, sanctions and coordination, following a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and South Korea’s Kang Kyung-wha.

Officials from both sides exchanged views through a video conferencing platform, ahead of a face-to-face meeting between Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea and Lee Do-hoon, the South Korean special envoy for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, South Korean news service News 1 reported.

A source at Seoul’s foreign ministry said Friday the one-hour video conference follows a Nov. 20 working-level discussion.

“We discussed North-South cooperation, and general topics, including North Korea’s nuclear weapons,” the source said.

Lee and Biegun did not participate on Friday, leaving the discussion to resume between Seoul’s director-general for North Korean nuclear affairs, Jeong Yeon-doo, Director of Peace and Diplomacy Planning Lee Dong-yeol, Alex Wong, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for North Korea in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and others, according to News 1.

The working-level groups began in the fall amid criticism the two allies were not coordinating on North Korea. In November, Pompeo told Seoul nuclear progress should not lag improving Korea ties.

On Friday the two sides discussed a potential Kim Jong Un visit to Seoul, and talked about ongoing railroad surveys in North Korea. The activity was recently exempted from United Nations Security Council sanctions.

“South Korea and the United States have agreed to continue evaluating the performance of the working group against the framework for a comprehensive and close U.S.-South Korea cooperation, and strengthening regular consultations in various formats,” News 1’s foreign ministry source said.

The meeting comes two days after a bill in U.S. Congress, the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, passed the Senate.

The bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., won bipartisan support. It reiterates strong sanctions against North Korea until complete denuclearization is achieved.

“The objective of negotiations with respect to the nuclear and ballistic missile programs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [is] the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of such programs,” the bill states.

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