State Dept. says no ‘meaningful’ pullback on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program

The State Department’s point man for North Korea policy told Congress Wednesday he hasn’t seen any “meaningful” pullback from North Korea over its nuclear weapons development some 15 months after President Donald Trump’s historic outreach to the Stalinist country.

“We do not have any verifiable or meaningful evidence that they have yet made that choice,” Stephen E. Biegun, nominated to be deputy secretary of state, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing.

However, he added, “our hypothesis is they can make that choice.”

With President Trump under increasing pressure to show some progress with North Korea as talks have come to a stalemate ahead of his reelection campaign, “ultimately, it’s the North Koreans [who] have to make the choice” to continue talks, Biegun added.

Denuclearization talks have made virtually no progress since a summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un broke up suddenly in February in Hanoi.

However, Biegun was sure to note that the “window is still open” for the U.S. and North Korea to reach a diplomatic agreement.

That said, North Korean officials have said they aren’t interested in ‘status quo’ talks with the U.S.

Pyongyang is seeking some immediate sanctions relief from Washington before any further denuclearization talks.

In a statement released Monday, Kim Kye-gwan, an adviser to the North Korean Foreign Ministry, said a Sunday tweet from President Trump suggesting new talks were imminent was “interpreted it as a signification indicative of another [North Korea]-U.S. summit.”

“We are no longer interested in such talks that bring nothing to us,” the statement continued.

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