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'South Korea, US agree on transformation in North Korea policy'

U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun,<strong></strong> left, White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, center, and National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien attend as U.S. President Donald Trump meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in New York, Tuesday (KST). Reuters-Yonhap
U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun, left, White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, center, and National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien attend as U.S. President Donald Trump meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in New York, Tuesday (KST). Reuters-Yonhap

By Kim Yoo-chul

UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK ― South Korea and the United States have agreed to push forward with a "transformational change" in their respective North Korea policies to provide the means for a breakthrough in the impasse in denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

No joint press conference was held, or official statements released, after the ninth summit between President Moon Jae-in and President Donald Trump, on the sidelines of this year's United Nations General Assembly, but according to South Korean diplomats Wednesday (KST), they reached a broad consensus not to pursue a hardline approach to the nuclear disarmament of the North.

In a speech at the General Assembly, Trump demanded North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to take visible steps toward complete denuclearization, but also described North Korea as a "partner," the diplomats said.

"The U.S. has never believed in permanent enemies. We want partners, not adversaries. America knows that while anyone can make war, only the most courageous can choose peace, for the same reason we have pursued bold diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula," the U.S. president said.

Concerns rise over defense cost-sharing talks Concerns rise over defense cost-sharing talks 2019-09-25 17:13  |  Politics
During the speech, Trump stressed the U.S. desires "mutual gain" and "cooperation" as it doesn't seek conflict with any other nation. "But I will never fail to defend America's interests. I have told Kim Jong-un what I truly believe, that like Iran, his country is full of tremendous untapped potential, but that to realize that promise North Korea must denuclearize."

Trump didn't go into details regarding specific steps Pyongyang should take in terms of advancing the denuclearization process visibly and substantially. Rather, he switched to Iran, dubbing it a "repressive regime" and blaming Tehran for attacking two Saudi Arabia oil processing facilities.

It remains to be seen whether the Moon-Trump summit produced an "invisible agreement" about the necessity of pursuing a trade-off between phased low level sanctions relief and nuclear disarmament steps by the North.

In a written briefing, presidential spokeswoman Ko Min-jung said National Security Office chief Chung Eui-yong agreed with Trump's new National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien to open up new communication channels between their respective organizations.

O'Brien replaced of John Bolton, the fired long-time North Korea hawk. Political experts said O'Brien could be more durable in the nuclear dialogue. "Trump has been showing his political flexibility since the very beginning in the denuclearization talks. That was a huge plus in terms of making a lot of progress on multiple fronts," according to one Seoul diplomat.

In the speech, Trump also made his position clear on defense-sharing costs with U.S. allies — a hefty increase.

"All of our partners are expected to pay their fair share of the tremendous defense burden," Trump said.

On a related note, both Washington and Seoul are prepared to resume negotiations on footing the bill for the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed on the peninsula.

In 2018, South Korea paid 1.04 trillion won, an increase of 8.2 percent from the previous year, however, the contract was only for one year, and is due to expire Dec. 31. Reports said the Trump administration has sought a fivefold increase to about $5 billion a year by including spending for the deployment of bombers and other U.S. military strategic assets, as well as traditional labor costs. South Korea is seeking to pay double the amount.




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