Talks planned between former American officials and a visiting senior North Korean government delegation for next week won’t go ahead as the U.S. Department of State has decided not to issue visas to the delegation, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.
The talks, which would have seen director of the DPRK foreign ministry’s U.S. affairs department Choe Son Hui meet former U.S. officials in New York between March 1-2, would have required Washington’s tacit approval in order to obtain the necessary visas for the North Korean delegation.
But while a State Department spokesperson on Saturday told the Washington Post it would not “discuss the details of individual visa cases,” the decision follows the emergence of further details related to the death of Kim Jong Nam, as well as North Korea’s February 12 surface-to-surface ballistic missile test.
Notably, Friday’s revelation that Kim Jong Nam appears to have been killed by the chemical weapon VX – an incident South Korea says it’s confident was orchestrated by Pyongyang – as well as the breakthrough technical nature of the February 12 missile test may have made the optics of supporting the visas too difficult for Washington to justify.
One North Korea watcher said recent events on the peninsula – and possible pressure from South Korea – likely led to the decision not to issue visas to the DPRK officials.
“One possibility is that the Trump administration decided talks on U.S. soil would be politically inappropriate following the revelation in Malaysia that a chemical WMD was used against Kim Jong Nam,” said Tristan Webb, an analyst for NK PRO. “Another possibility, as reported in the ROK press last week, is that South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se successfully persuaded Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from making a deal.”
“A third possibility is that President Trump was not happy with the timing or location of the talks, but not opposed to talks in principle. Maybe the negotiator in him wants to make the DPRK side feel a little more desperate, perhaps he wants to avoid bilateral talks and instead push the issue more towards China and go through the Six-Party Talks.”
The talks would have been the first meeting on U.S. territory with a visiting North Korean delegation since 2011 and followed an eleventh-hour donation of one million dollars by the outgoing Obama administration in January to UNICEF to help with flood rehabilitation work in northeastern North Korea.
The talks had been in a planning stage and, had they gone ahead, would have been hosted by Donald S. Zagoria of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy Former U.S. Ambassador Joseph DeTrani, who played a key role in the landmark 1994 Agreed Framework with the North, was said to be among the U.S. participants, the Washington Post said.
To date, statements and remarks about North Korea made by senior figures in the Trump administration strongly suggested the government would pursue a policy focused on increasing pressure.
On Thursday Trump told Reuters news agency that Pyongyang’s penchant for ballistic missile testing was leading to a “very dangerous situation,” suggesting the opportunity for high-level talks with Kim Jong Un had passed.
“We’re very angry at what he’s done, and frankly this should have been taken care of during the Obama administration,” Trump said about prospects for one day meeting with Kim Jong Un.
Main picture: Wikimedia Commons
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