South Korea's top envoy to North Korea heads to US

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 11:34am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 5:35pm

South Korea’s top envoy on North Korea left on Tuesday for a meeting in Washington with his US and Japanese counterparts, two days after Pyongyang proposed direct, high-level talks with the United States.

After Washington, Cho Tae-yong will travel on to Beijing - where he is likely to overlap with a visit by North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan, to the Chinese capital.

Speaking to the South’s Yonhap news agency before his departure, Cho said it was important to retain a clear perspective on the North’s recent moves towards dialogue after months of military tensions.

“At this point, it is important for relevant parties to rebuild trust so that progress can be made toward the goal of denuclearising North Korea, rather than talks for talks’ sake,” Cho said.

The North’s offer of direct denuclearisation talks with Washington - bypassing any initial dialogue with Seoul - was seen by many analysts as a bid to drive a wedge between the United States and its South Korean ally.

The US responded by insisting that Pyongyang first demonstrate its willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

North and South Korea had been scheduled to hold their first high-level talks for six years last week, but they were cancelled after a row over protocol.

In Washington, Cho will meet with the US and Japanese special envoys on North Korea, Glyn Davies and Shinsuke Sugiyama, but said he had “no plan” to meet Kim Kye-gwan in Beijing.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye is due to make her first visit to China later this month for a summit with President Xi Jinping.