SEOUL – United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper reaffirmed on Friday his country’s willingness to resume talks with Pyongyang while maintaining current sanctions on the North Korean regime until it abandons its nuclear program.
Esper conveyed this message at the start of his meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Jeong Kyeong-doo, during the former’s official visit to Seoul for the last leg of his Asia-Pacific tour, his first international trip since taking office around the end of last month.
Washington “will remain resolute in the enforcement of the UN Security Council resolutions until the North engages in the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Esper said regarding the international sanctions on Pyongyang, according to the news agency Yonhap.
“As President (Donald) Trump has made clear, the US is willing to engage diplomatically with North Korea to make progress on all commitments made in the Singapore joint statement to achieve those ends,” the Pentagon chief added, in reference to the second summit between the American president and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
In this manner, Esper underlined Washington’s desire to revive negotiations with the North Korean regime, something Trump and Kim committed to at their last impromptu summit on the inter-Korean border around the end of June.
The two countries were expected to resume contacts by mid-July, but instead Pyongyang conducted a series of short-range ballistic missile tests to protest and warn against the joint military drills between Seoul and Washington underway in South Korea since Aug. 5.
The South Korean defense minister, on his part, highlighted the importance of Esper’s visit at a very urgent moment in terms of security for the peninsula, and spoke of the recent launches by North Korea, the incursion of Russian aircraft into South Korean airspace and Seoul’s commercial and diplomatic dispute with Tokyo.
Jeong said he hoped that defense officials in Washington and Seoul would maintain wide cooperation to overcome the aforementioned difficulties.
Esper was also scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday in Seoul before departing back to the US.