Seoul optimistic about “secret, direct contact” between U.S. and North Korea

Seoul optimistic about "secret, direct contact" between U.S. and North Korea

SEOUL, April 8 (UPI) — South Korea’s top office expressed optimism on reports of contact between Washington and Pyongyang, to arrange a summit between their leaders in May.

A senior presidential official told Yonhap Sunday that if direct contact is being initiated between the United States and North Korea, Seoul sees it as a positive signal.

The liberal Moon Jae-in administration has been pushing for dialogue with the North, in efforts to achieve denuclearization as well as the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The official’s remarks came after CNN reported that Washington has been holding “secret, direct talks” to prepare for the upcoming summit between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Quoting various U.S. officials, the report said a team at the Central Intelligence Agency, led by its Director Mike Pompeo, has been working through back-channels to make arrangements for the high-profile talks.

According to the report, American officials are said to have spoken several times with their North Korean counterparts, and even met up with them up to three times to discuss preparations.

The U.S. President, last month, told South Korean presidential envoys that he accepted Kim’s invitation for talks on denuclearization and would hold the talks in May.

Since then, the North Korean leader has reaffirmed his commitment to discussing denuclearization as well as his willingness to hold summit talks with the South Korean and U.S. presidents.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is continuing to pressure the North regarding its flagrant violations of human rights, the Voice of America reported Sunday.

The U.S. broadcasted quoted Katina Adams, spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, who said Washington will continue to exert pressure on Pyongyang in order to ensure it respects the basic freedom and human rights of its citizens.

She said the U.S. is deeply concerned about the state of North Korean citizens’ well-being.

Regarding scepticism in Washington on the possibility of the North dismantling its nukes, Adams said the North Korean leader has asserted his willingness to denuclearize and to refrain from additional nuclear and missile test, and that he understands South Korea-U.S. joint military drills will continue as scheduled.