In the unfolding legal saga surrounding former President Donald Trump, the prospect of seeing him behind bars before the next election appears to be fading into the mist of procedural intricacies and potential delays.
US Deputy Secretary of State and North Korea envoy Stephen Biegun arrived for discussions in the South on Tuesday, reports said, hours after Pyongyang again threw cold water on Seoul’s idea of another US-North Korea summit.
Biegun is to discuss “allied cooperation” on the “final, fully verified denuclearisation” of North Korea, among other issues, during his meetings with officials in Seoul and Tokyo this week, according to the US State Department.
The phrase is Washington’s goal for its negotiations with Pyongyang, but the North has made clear it has no intention of giving up its arsenal while it sees itself as threatened by a US invasion.
Biegun’s plane landed at Osan air base south of Seoul, local media reported.
Hours before his arrival, senior North Korean foreign ministry official Kwon Jong Gun released a statement reiterating the North had no intention to sit down with the US, while urging Seoul to “stop meddling”.
“It is just the time for it to stop meddling in others’ affairs but it seems there is no cure or prescription for its bad habit,” Kwon said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
“Explicitly speaking once again, we have no intention to sit face to face with the United States.”
Talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal have been stalled since a Hanoi summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un collapsed in early 2019 over what the North would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.
Kim declared in December an end to moratoriums on nuclear and ballistic missile tests, and Pyongyang has repeatedly said it has no intention to continue talks unless Washington drops what it describes as “hostile” policies toward the North.
Biegun also suggested last month that another meeting between Trump and Kim is unlikely, although he held out hope for progress in nuclear negotiations.
Even so, rumours surrounding the possibility of another summit swirled last week, after former US national security advisor John Bolton reportedly said Trump might pursue another meeting with Kim in October, if it would help his re-election chances.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in — who has long backed engagement with the North — also called for another Kim-Trump meeting before the US presidential election in November, saying the South would make “utmost efforts” to help arrange it.
But the North’s Kwon described Moon as a “meddlesome man”, saying his administration was “guided by the habit of always talking in their own favour”.
Kwon’s statement came days after North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said the Trump administration considered diplomacy with the North as “nothing more than a tool” to deal with its own political crisis, adding the North does not feel “any need” to sit down with the US.