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Trumps North Korea Envoy Biegun: A skilled man in an impossible job?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The days before a second US-North Korea summit lie much on the shoulders of a former auto-practitioner trying to find a common ground between an American president seeking a major foreign policy victory and a North Korean leader who seems unlikely to give him one. FILE PHOTO: US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun (R) shakes hands with South Korea's Special Representative for Peace and Security in Korea, Lee Do-hoon (L) before his meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea February 9, 2019. KIM MIN HEE / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo Stephen Biegun, named Donald Trump's special envoy for North Korea six months ago, flew to Hanoi before the meeting on February 27-28 in Vietnamese capital where Trump hopes to come closer to his goal of convincing Pyongyang to give up a nuclear program threatening the United States. At meetings with his North Korean counterpart, Biegun, a 55-year-old former Ford Motor Co, aims to hammer out a joint summit showing concrete progress beyond vague commitments agreed between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on their first meeting in June. It is a long order, even for someone who is used to hard quests. Prior to joining Ford as head of international government relations, Biegun was given the job of giving Sarah Palin a foreign policy crash course as John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. Such experience can be helpful in explaining what is possible for Trump, who came to the office…

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The days before a second US-North Korea summit lie much on the shoulders of a former auto-practitioner trying to find a common ground between an American president seeking a major foreign policy victory and a North Korean leader who seems unlikely to give him one.

FILE PHOTO: US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun (R) shakes hands with South Korea’s Special Representative for Peace and Security in Korea, Lee Do-hoon (L) before his meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea February 9, 2019. KIM MIN HEE / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo

Stephen Biegun, named Donald Trump’s special envoy for North Korea six months ago, flew to Hanoi before the meeting on February 27-28 in Vietnamese capital where Trump hopes to come closer to his goal of convincing Pyongyang to give up a nuclear program threatening the United States.

At meetings with his North Korean counterpart, Biegun, a 55-year-old former Ford Motor Co, aims to hammer out a joint summit showing concrete progress beyond vague commitments agreed between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on their first meeting in June.

It is a long order, even for someone who is used to hard quests.

Prior to joining Ford as head of international government relations, Biegun was given the job of giving Sarah Palin a foreign policy crash course as John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Such experience can be helpful in explaining what is possible for Trump, who came to the office in the same way as lacking in diplomatic experience, and has put his view on North Korea as a problem he can pose as a major success that has eliminated their predecessors.

While Biegun worked for decades as congressional staff and as the White House Foreign Policy Assistant under President George W. Bush, his latest meeting was originally greeted with skepticism, as he was primarily a Russian specialist with little exposure to the complex North Korea problem.

But several North Korean experts who then advised Biegun told Reuters that they have been struck by how methodical he was in taking time to talk to as many people as possible and describing him as a quick teacher.

Core competency Siegfried Hecker, a former head of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, who has met with Biegun, said he was encouraged by Biegun’s guilty of his lack of specialist knowledge by seeking the right people.

“What he has done is to learn and collect things. I am impressed by what he has done – he has good advisers.”

A 16th century law Biegun brought with him to Pyongyang for three days of conversation earlier per month including missile experts, core experts and specialists in international law.

A Capitol Hill staffer whose democratic party has criticized Trump’s personal approach to North Korea said that Biegun’s attitude seemed “much more realistic than we have heard from the administration so far.”

“He really stands his head and shoulders over the rest … and comes to this a with a relatively new set of eyes and as someone who does not make old assumptions but also who does not make false assumptions.”

Biegun also has won admirers in South Korea, where a former senior diplomat said he clearly had experience dealing with complex problems and knew how Washington works. “Among all the nuclear envoys I’ve seen for decades, he must be the heaviest,” he said.

However, it will take more than intelligence, gravitas, an open mind and politically knowledgeable to convince North Korea to abandon a nuclear program that its government family has long considered necessary for its survival.

Biegun has avoided formal media interviews, but delivered a vast speech at Stanford University on January 31, admitting that despite the fact that the United States North Korea had months, the two sides still had no agreed definition of the term “Denuclearization”.

And despite Trump’s declaration after the recent summit on the nuclear resistance from North Korea, the country has not yet agreed to freeze the production of fissile material and its missile programs despite an actual moratorium on nuclear and missile testing since 2017.

Biegun has said that he will seek both in Hanoi and will also review a roadmap for a possible long negotiation negotiation.

INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY, MILITARY DOUBTS

But neither the US intelligence community nor regional military commanders believe that North Korea will agree to give up all their nuclear weapons.

While welcoming a relief of tensions, the critics worry the Trump administration – Biegun is included – is now following Pyongyang’s playbook by losing past demands for complete nuclear warfare before any concessions.

Trump and US officials insist on North Korea’s complete and verified nuclear licensing is still the ultimate goal, but experts say the mechanics of a negotiated process means it can take many years – if at all.

Trump’s close engagement could prove a mixed blessing for Biegun.

Unlike its predecessors, Biegun has had significant direct contact with Trump, including participation in the White House’s talks with North Korean officials and an oval office meeting with the president in December.

But Trump has sometimes shown a tendency to ignore counselors and act on impulse.

Biegun, according to an American North Korea’s hand, “is a prisoner … by a president who has no interest in the subject.” “The president’s priority is himself – his brand,” said the person, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Biegun is also available to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a trusted Trump assistant with a reputation for following Presidential orders and for rarely opposing him.

Although Pompeo has overall control over North Korea’s policies, Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, known for hawkian views on a series of global problems, has been weakened in the background of North Korea since his calls to the nation’s rapid disarmament ran almost the first summit.

The extent of Bolton’s involvement in the Hanoi meeting is still unclear.

Analysts say that for Biehun’s methodological approach, he must give a future of progress in Hanoi. They warn Trump’s taste for a flashy moment and obvious lack of patience with the type of detailed protrusion that a lasting agreement will require could complicate the task of Biegun.

A photo Trump tweeted on Christmas Day shows him reading a memo at his desk in the Oval Office while Biegun and White House Advisor Allison Hooker are standing on his side, watching, caught the awkward his subordinate role. here

FILE PHOTO: US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun listens to South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-WHA during his meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea on February 9, 2019. Ed Jonas / Pool via REUTERS – / File Photo

Toby Dalton, of the Washington Political Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who was among Biegun’s advisers, noted that he had left a large reach in his Stanford speech for a reason.

“This reflects uncertain about which American policy is,” he said. “US policy is what the president says it is on a particular day.” Reporting David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Hyonhee Shin in SEOUL; Editing by Mary Milliken and Tomasz Janowski

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