U.S. envoy in Seoul for talks over N. Korea missile, nuclear tensions

People watch a television broadcasting a news report on North Korea’s new type of tactical guided weapon test, at a railway station in Seoul on Sunday.

SEOUL (Reuters) — The U.S. envoy for North Korea arrived in Seoul on Monday for talks with his South Korean counterparts on ways to address Pyongyang’s increased missile launches and concerns over the possible resumption of nuclear testing.

U.S. Special Representative Sung Kim and his deputy, Jung Pak, will meet with South Korean officials, including nuclear envoy Noh Kyu-duk, during a five-day visit.

Their arrival coincided with the start of a nine-day annual joint military drill by U.S. and South Korean troops. The exercise is a “defensive command post training using computer simulation” and will not involve field maneuvers by troops, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Sunday.

North Korea has condemned the joint drills as rehearsals for war, and they have been scaled back in recent years amid efforts to engage Pyongyang in diplomacy, and because of COVID-19 restrictions.

On Saturday North Korea test fired what state media said were missiles involved in delivering tactical nuclear weapons.

On arrival, Kim told reporters he was in Seoul to continue “close coordination” on North Korea developments, Yonhap news agency reported, without elaborating.

He has said he is open to talks with North Korea at any time and without preconditions, but Pyongyang has so far rebuffed those overtures, accusing Washington of maintaining hostile policies such as sanctions and the military drills.

South Korean media reported that Kim was also expected to meet with the transition team for President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who takes office in May.

A spokesperson for the team said there was no meeting confirmed between Yoon and Kim, and could not immediately confirm whether the envoy would be meeting other transition officials.