U.S. envoy for N.K. to travel to S. Korea, Japan

WASHINGTON-- U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun will travel to South Korea and Japan next week to strengthen coordination on efforts to denuclearize the North, the State Department said Friday.

Biegun will visit Seoul from Tuesday to Thursday after a two-day stop in Japan, the department said in a press release.

He will meet with officials to "further strengthen coordination on the final, fully verified denuclearization of the DPRK," it said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Biegun's trip comes as North Korea has raised tensions by conducting six tests of short-range ballistic missiles and other projectiles since July 25.

The latest launch took place Friday (Seoul time) after South Korean President Moon Jae-in reaffirmed his commitment to continuing dialogue and cooperation with the North.

Pyongyang has blamed ongoing South Korea-U.S. military exercises for its tests.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un complained about the exercises in a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump last week and said he would be willing to resume talks with Washington once the drills end later this month, according to Trump.

Trump and Kim had agreed during their meeting at the inter-Korean border on June 30 to restart working-level negotiations within several weeks.

The talks have been stalled since the leaders' second summit in Vietnam in February ended without a deal due to differences over the scope of North Korea's denuclearization and sanctions relief from the U.S.

Meanwhile, Biegun, who is in charge of day-to-day negotiations with the North, is reportedly under consideration as the next U.S. ambassador to Russia.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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