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U.S. envoy to visit South Korea next week - sources

·2 min read

SEOUL/WASHINGTON Dec 4 (Reuters) - Washington's point man on North Korea, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, is scheduled to visit Seoul next week to meet with South Korean officials, four sources with knowledge of the trip told Reuters.

The trip has not been announced by the State Department, and a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Seoul said he had no announcement to make.

Besides meeting with South Korean officials, Biegun was also due to give a speech, the sources said, though it was unclear whether a continuing spike in coronavirus infections in South Korea would interfere with those plans.

Biegun has spearheaded working-level talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes in the past, but those efforts have made no visible progress despite President Donald Trump's unprecedented summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Biegun has said he is open to resuming talks at any time, but North Korea insists that it has no intention of returning to denuclearisation negotiations as long as the United States clings to "hostile policies".

Talks over reducing international sanctions on North Korea in return for concessions from Pyongyang broke down in the wake of a summit between Trump and Kim in Vietnam in February 2019, which ended with no deal.

Biegun's visit comes as incoming U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has promised to reset relations with Seoul, which have been strained by Trump's demand that South Korea pay billions of dollars more for maintaining the U.S. troop presence on the peninsula.

Relations between the allies were also complicated by South Korean frustrations with U.S. objections to some of its efforts to engage with North Korea. (Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul, and the Washington, D.C. bureau. Editing by Gareth Jones)