N. Korea official urges U.S. talks, says Kim Jong Un will be around for long time
NEW YORK–The onus is on Washington to enter dialogue with Pyongyang because Kim Jong Un’s regime will be a long-lasting one, a top North Korean official was quoted as saying.
Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, North Korea’s representative at the six-party talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear development program, renewed calls for early dialogue with the United States in talks with Donald Gregg, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea.
“Kim Jong Un is going to be around for a long time. So if President Obama doesn’t talk to us, we will just wait for the next president,” Gregg quoted Ri as saying at their meeting in North Korea.
Gregg, who visited the reclusive country from Feb. 10 to 14, provided details of that meeting in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun at his home in a suburb of New York on Feb. 17.
According to Gregg, Ri emphasized that North Korea is hoping for immediate dialogue with the United States and improved relations with South Korea.
North Korea this month invited Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, but immediately retracted the invitation. Ri said the cancelation was because the United States flew B-52 strategic bombers to the airspace west of the Korean Peninsula.
“When you send nuclear-capable B-52 bombers toward us, we really resent it,” Gregg quoted Ri as saying.
Gregg, who periodically meets executives of the North Korean permanent mission to the United Nations in New York, is known for putting importance on dialogue with Pyongyang.
He also met Ri in New York two years ago.
“We had a frank discussion with him,” Gregg said about his latest talks with Ri.
North Korea invited Gregg in January. During his visit as a private individual, the former ambassador discussed possible economic cooperation measures if sanctions against North Korea are eased.
After returning to the United States, Gregg said, he reported the contents of his talks with Ri to the U.S. State Department.
Gregg was U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 1989 to 1993.
In 1973, South Korean opposition leader Kim Dae-jung was kidnapped in Tokyo by intelligence agents of the South Korean military government. At that time, Gregg worked for Kim’s release as head of the CIA station in Seoul.
February 19, 2014