Envoy Stephen Biegun: North Korea dialogue ‘productive’ but sanctions must stay

Feb. 12 (UPI) — U.S. special representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun told a visiting South Korean delegation in Washington he reached a basic framework of agreement with the North Koreans, according to a South Korean press report.

Seoul Shinmun reported Tuesday Biegun met with South Korean National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang and told the visiting officials an agreement on the agenda of the second summit was reached, but “negotiations will take time.”

President Donald Trump is to meet with Kim Jong Un for the second time in Hanoi, Vietnam, from Feb. 27 to 28.

Quoting South Korean government sources, the paper reported Biegun said the meetings in Pyongyang were “constructive and productive,” and expectations should be adjusted as difficult issues are resolved.

The U.S. diplomat also called for progress on inter-Korea relations to take place within the framework of sanctions; the United States has said economic embargoes must stay in place until final, fully verified denuclearization is achieved.

According to South Korean sources, Biegun said North Korea’s delaying of dialogue created issues with synchronized efforts between Seoul and Washington — an issue that has been resolved with the creation of a working-level group on North Korea.

Biegun added differences in views remain and another working-level talk with the North, to be held before Hanoi, will be an opportunity to close some of the gaps before Trump and Kim meet again.

Trump has said the United States is willing to assist North Korea economically should Pyongyang commit to FFVD.

North Korea has been under heavy sanctions, and the policy has affected trade with China, South Korean news service Money Today reported Tuesday.

Data from China’s national statistical office show North Korea exports were down 88 percent and imports decreased by 33 percent in 2018, according to the report.

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