US envoy to PH played key role in Trump-Kim summit

By Roy Mabasa

Unknown to many, current United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim was not only part of the high-level delegation that President Donald Trump brought with him to the historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Tuesday.

Ambassador Kim also led the negotiations for one of the most contentious subjects during the summit – the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula

His role in US negotiations with North Korea was not a novel part for Kim. Prior to his appointment as ambassador to the Philippines in 2014, he had served as Special Representative for North Korea Policy in Washington, and as Special Envoy for the Six-Party Talks.

The six-party talks for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula were a series of multilateral negotiations held intermittently since 2003 and attended by representatives from China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.

Ambassador Kim was born in Seoul and grew up in Los Angeles. In 2011, he returned to South Korea as US ambassador until 2014.

According to the US-based National Public Radio (NPR), Kim is “one of the rare career Foreign Service officers playing a high-profile role in the summit planning,” and one of the few with experience having served under both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

A day ahead of the summit, the envoy, together with his negotiating team, sat down for more than two hours with their counterparts led by North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, in what US State Secretary Mike Pompeo described in his tweet as “substantive and detailed” meetings.

Reports from Singapore showed that neither of the two negotiating sides spoke to the media after their talks.

Even weeks before the Singapore meetings, it was learned that the US envoy to Manila has been quietly hammering out the agenda for the summit with his North Korean counterparts, “trying to iron out what sort of commitments North Korea is ready to make on denuclearization and what steps the U.S. might take toward formally ending the Korean War.”

It was not certain, however, if Kim will continue to be part of the negotiations with North Korea after the Singapore summit. The US Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to the query.