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U.S. reshuffles national security team ahead of talks with N. Korea Updated: 2019-09-20 16:08:38 KST

U.S. President Donald Trump has tapped special envoy for hostage affairs Robert O'Brien as his new national security advisor.
The realignment of Trump's national security team comes while speculation runs high that working-level talks between North Korea and the U.S. will resume soon.
Today, we go in-depth on what the latest appointment could mean for Washington's foreign and security policies and how they might impact affairs on the Korean Peninsula.
For that, Dr. Woo Jung-yeop from the Sejong Institute joins me in the studio.
It's great to see you.

Robert O'Brien becomes President Trump's fourth security advisor. He was a career lawyer before taking his job in the government. He's not much of a big name, at least in the public sphere. It's expected that he'll cause less friction compared to his predecessor. What did you make of his appointment?

O'Brien replaces John Bolton known for his hawkish views. While some say O'Brien may be as hawkish, he doesn't have any North Korea-related experience in his resume. Given that factor, do you see changes to Washington's policy toward Pyeongyang, or will it be much of the same?

North Korea meanwhile has welcomed Trump's political determination to approach North Korea-U.S. relations in a more practical manner, after he suggested a "new method" in resolving the deadlock in nuclear talks. It also praised Washington's departure from the Libyan model by removing Bolton. Do you see a bit of optimism for the upcoming talks?

Those remarks were made by Kim Myong-gil, known as Pyeongyang's new special envoy for working level talks with Washington, with Stephen Biegun being his U.S. counterpart. Do you think this will be another variable in the upcoming talks?

Reports say that the appointment of O'Brien will solidify the status of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the most influential foreign policy voice in the Trump administration. Do you see Pompeo having a greater influence on diplomacy and security issues?

There's speculation that Stephen Biegun U.S. Special Representative for North Korea may be tapped as Deputy Secretary of State. If that's the case, what will that mean for denuclearization talks, as well as the Seoul-Washington alliance?

Amid speculation that working-level talks will take place soon, Seoul's top nuclear envoy Lee Do-hoon is in the U.S. to meet with his counterpart Stephen Biegun. Lee said that the North has recently shifted its emphasis from sanctions relief to security guarantees for its regime, and that Seoul and Washington will be discussing various ways to address that. Looking at his remarks, do you see a potential shift in focus from sanctions to security guarantees at the upcoming working-level talks?

Given the no-deal Hanoi summit, what sort of concessions will we need from either side for any sort of progress? (Earlier in the week, the North said denuclearization talks will take place when threats to regime security and obstacles to its economic development are clearly removed.)

Shifting gears, yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the inter-Korean summit in Pyeongyang. North Korea has not made any response in regards to it, nor is it trying to engage with Seoul. Do you think the regime is intentionally leaving South Korea out while it gets ready to talk with the U.S.?

According to the North's state media, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to deepen bilateral ties with China calling their friendly relations a "strategic option." That's in response to Chinese President Xi Jinping's congratulatory message last week to mark the North's founding anniversary. Do you think Pyeongyang is trying to strengthen its diplomatic hand ahead of negotiations with the U.S.?

Next week, South Korean President Moon Jae-in will take to the podium on the global diplomatic stage. Along with speaking at the UN General Assembly, he's also scheduled to sit down with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump. Given the current situation on the Peninsula, what role do you see for the President at this moment in time?

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