- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2019

SEOUL — The Trump administration’s special representative for North Korea said the U.S. wants to make progress with Kim Jong-un’s regime “simultaneously and in parallel,” suggesting a possible softening of the American stance after the push for an upfront, “big deal” derailed February negotiations in Hanoi.

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the U.S. envoy, Stephen Begun, wants to make progress in line with a statement signed in President Trump’s first summit with Mr. Kim, in Singapore.

At the time, the U.S. agreed to security guarantees in exchange for North Korea taking steps to denuclearize and return soldiers’ remains ahead of further talks.

Mr. Biegun’s South Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon, said Friday the exchange of warm letters between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim led to a “positive environment” that could kick-start dialog.

He also said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to North Korea had an impact.

In a meeting at the G-20 summit in Japan, Mr. Xi told South Korean President Moon Jae-In that North Korea remains committed to denuclearization and reconciliation with the South, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Mr. Xi also reportedly told Mr. Moon that Mr. Kim, seeking to improve his country’s economic condition, wants an “improvement in external conditions” — an apparent reference to the desire for sanctions relief.

Mr. Trump will touch down in the South Korean capital late Saturday, after he wraps up talks with Mr. Xi and other leaders at the G-20 in Osaka.

He will have bilateral talks with Mr. Moon, who tied his legacy to the Korean peace process and wants to generate momentum between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim.

There’s also rampant speculation that Mr. Trump will visit the demilitarized zone that separates north from south — and serves as a vivid reminder of the Korean War that ended with an armistice instead of lasting peace.

Mr. Moon is expected to push for a flexible approach from Washington, since Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim have been stuck in neutral since Hanoi.

Mr. Trump said he ended the Vietnam summit after the North Koreans demanded sweeping sanctions relief in exchange for only a limited commitment to destroy part of their nuclear arsenal at the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

Earlier this month, Mr. Biegun told the Atlantic Council, a D.C. think tank, that the U.S. understands the need for a “flexible approach,” signaling wiggle room.

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