Stephen Biegun, a nominee for deputy secretary of state, said Wednesday (local time) at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee nomination hearing, “South Korea is among our most important alliance partners. That doesn’t mean anybody gets a free ride.”
Experts say that the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea who reportedly has a deep understanding of the Korean Peninsula has joined the Trump administration in pressuring Seoul to increase its contribution. However, he said “yes” when asked if he advocated for the presence of the U.S. Forces in South Korea.
He also publicly demanded that Choi Sun Hee, the North Korean Foreign Ministry's bureau chief for North America, come to the negotiating table by selecting her as his counterpart. He said the confirmation would not distract him from North Korea-related issues but make it a higher priority instead. His demand can be interpreted as a request for North Korea to send high-ranking officials to nuclear talks. Reportedly, the U.S. negotiators felt frustration at last month’s working-level talk in Stockholm and the one that preceded the Hanoi summit in February where, having no authority, their counterparts simply reiterated the messages from the top.
He also raised a possibility of North Korea, which called for Washington to come up with a “new solution,” returning to its old provocative steps, and warned Pyongyang that it would be a huge mistake.