More Pressure Put on Seoul to Pay Exorbitant U.S. Defense Bill

  • By Lee Ha-won, Choi Yeon-jin, Cho Yi-jun, Kim Myong-song

    November 22, 2019 13:56

    Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun answers a question in his confirmation hearing as deputy secretary of state in Washington on Wednesday, in this video grab from the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. /Yonhap

    Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, has joined other senior American officials in putting pressure on Seoul to contribute more for the upkeep of U.S. troops here.

    Biegun made the remarks in an apparent attempt to curry favor during his confirmation hearing for a new post as deputy secretary of state on Wednesday.

    Parroting U.S. President Donald Trump, he told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that South Korea "is among our most important alliance partners," but added, "That doesn't mean anybody gets a free ride."

    He said Washington is having "a tough burden-sharing negotiation that we're in the middle of with the South Koreans."

    Turning to North Korea's end-of-year deadline for denuclearization negotiations, Biegun termed it an "artificial" deadline set by Pyongyang. Washington "will be at this as long as it takes," he said, adding that it would be a "huge mistake and a missed opportunity" for the North Korean regime if it takes "provocative steps."

    Biegun denied that U.S. President Donald Trump's tweet to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Nov. 17 -- "You should act quickly, get the deal done. See you soon!" -- was meant as a proposal for another summit.

    He added that he believes his promotion would elevate the priority of the negotiations and his counterpart should be the North's Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, who "has not participated in these negotiations in a meaningful way."

    North Korea is immensely status-conscious and calibrates ranks obsessively in international diplomacy. Currently roving ambassador Kim Myong-gil is leading the North Korean team. 

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