Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential elections, even as others in the Trump administration are careful not to weigh in as President Trump continues to challenge the election result.
Biegun spoke of a “new team” coming on as he outlined his hopes for progress in future talks to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
“A new team will soon be in place, and I will fully share with them all of our experience, recommendations, and perhaps a little hard-earned wisdom,” Biegun said at the Asan Institute in Seoul. “Among the points I will convey to the new team is this: The war is over. The time for conflict has ended, and the time for peace has arrived. If we are to succeed, we must work together — the United States, the Republic of Korea, and the DPRK.”
American officials have trodden carefully in their comments on the election, as Trump and his allies pursue a myriad of long-shot attempts to overturn the results in key battleground states. Biegun rose to the No. 2 post at the State Department after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tapped him initially as the special representative for North Korea.
Biegun has spoken out about dictator Kim Jong Un’s role in undercutting negotiations in recent years.
“Regrettably, much opportunity has been squandered by our North Korean counterparts over the past two years, who too often have devoted themselves to the search for obstacles to negotiations instead of seizing opportunities for engagement,” he said. “Yet, remarkably, the potential of the Singapore Summit is still fully present, despite our failure to advance what was agreed.”
Kim’s recalcitrance was a diplomatic gamble because such opportunities “can be fleeting, especially in democracies, which see elections and changes in government that make bold actions even more urgent,” Biegun observed.
Still, Biegun argued that the diplomatic work of the Trump administration could provide a foundation for Biden’s team if North Korea adopts a more productive posture.