US envoy for North Korea on Beijing visit, says embassy

Washington's North Korea envoy Stephen Biegun is in the Chinese capital to "continue US-China coordination on policies related to North Korea".
Washington's North Korea envoy Stephen Biegun is in the Chinese capital to "continue US-China coordination on policies related to North Korea".PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • The United States' special envoy for North Korea is visiting Beijing to coordinate policies with China, the US embassy has said, a month after the failure of a denuclearisation summit.

Mr Stephen Biegun, Washington's North Korea envoy, is in the Chinese capital to "continue US-China coordination on policies related to North Korea", a US embassy spokesman told Agence France-Presse yesterday but declined to share more details.

Mr Biegun's visit overlaps with the arrival of an unidentified highranking North Korean official, who was greeted by Chinese government officials and Pyongyang's envoy to China yesterday, reported South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

It was not clear whether the visits by the US and North Korean officials were related.

Mr Biegun's trip comes after US President Donald Trump abruptly cut short the Feb 27-28 summit in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, amid fundamental differences between the two sides over the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

The summit, their second in under a year, broke up without even a joint statement, and each sought to blame the other's intransigence for the deadlock.

Both sides pledged to continue talking, but no new meetings have been scheduled.

 
 

In the middle of this month, Mr Biegun said Washington's goal was the complete denuclearisation of North Korea by the end of Mr Trump's first term, and that it would not settle for incremental disarmament.

"We will not lift these sanctions until NK (North Korea) completes the process of denuclearisation," he said.

But last Friday, Mr Trump abruptly announced the cancellation of new sanctions on North Korea imposed by the US Treasury.

China has played diplomatic wingman to North Korea – even loaning Mr Kim an Air China jet to travel to his landmark meeting with Mr Trump in Singapore last year – as Beijing is intent on keeping Pyongyang within its sphere of influence.

The North acts as a buffer state, keeping the 28,500 American troops in South Korea far from China's borders.

In January, Beijing hosted Mr Kim for the fourth time prior to his Hanoi summit with Mr Trump – something that has become somewhat of a ritual, with Mr Kim briefing Chinese President Xi Jinping before and after his meetings with Mr Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2019, with the headline 'US envoy for North Korea on Beijing visit, says embassy'. Print Edition | Subscribe