US, South Korean special envoys explore reopening talks with North Korea at Seoul meeting

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

On Sunday, United States and South Korean envoys met in Seoul, South Korea to discuss ways to reopen diplomatic talks with North Korea and sending humanitarian aid there. Earlier, the United Nations warned the country faces starvation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Envoys also discussed a Southern proposal to formally end the Korean War, which was not closed since the last Armistice Talks in July 1953.

Kim Sung in 2020.
Image: US Department of State.

Prior to the meeting, Sung Kim, US Special Envoy for North Korea told reporters after arriving in Seoul to meet South Korean nuclear envoy Noh Kyu-duk that he looked forward to "productive follow up discussions" after their meeting in Washington, D.C. last Tuesday. ​Their agenda for Sunday included the denuclearization of North Korea, declaring a formal end to the Korean War and sending humanitarian aid to North Korea as a way to reopen diplomatic talks.

After the meeting, Kim said the US calls "on the DPRK to cease… destabilizing activities, and instead, engage in dialogue." He reiterated the US "remain[s] ready to meet with the DPRK without preconditions", and had "made clear that the United States harbors no hostile intent towards the DPRK."

During a press conference Friday, United Nations Special Rapporteur on North Korea Tomas Ojea Quintana said the country may need humanitarian aid and called for easing sanctions against the North Korean textile and seafood sectors. He warned that continued border closures and limited trade might lead to starvation, and that the region is "veering towards an arms race".

During a US Department of State press briefing the same day, spokesperson Ned Price said "[UN] Security Council resolutions regarding the DPRK remain in effect" and "we are involved in efforts to facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid to the neediest" in North Korea.

Last Tuesday, North Korea tested a new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). In response, special envoy Kim called on the North to "refrain from further provocations and engage in sustained and substantive dialogue". The North's responded the US was "overreacting". South Korea launched a new SLBM on September 15, while North Korea launched a hypersonic missile, in early stages of development, on September 28.