Former American officials may soon host talks in the U.S. with a senior North Korean government delegation, the Washington Post said on Monday, citing multiple anonymous sources familiar with the preparations.
The talks, which would be between former U.S. government officials and senior representatives from the DPRK foreign ministry, are currently in planning stage and would be hosted by Donald S. Zagoria of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy if they go ahead, according to the report.
As a consequence, the talks will be held independent of the U.S. State Department, but would require the department’s tacit approval in order to obtain the necessary visas for the North Korean delegation, which could include Choe Son Hui, the director of the foreign ministry’s U.S. affairs department.
The timing of the talks, if they go ahead, is not yet clear, but the Post said visas could be approved “in New York within the next few weeks.”
The newspaper said, however, that North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launch and the murder of Kim Jong Nam were complicating preparations, two issues that both drew strong condemnation from the U.S. government, including the President himself.
But John Delury, a Seoul-based North Korea observer at Yonsei University, said: “there’s a structural problem in that the only time we pay attention to North Korea is when they do stuff we don’t like.”
“The U.S. has always tempted to ignore them, if they’re on good behavior,” he said. As such, for Delury the recent missile test was “a signal for the need for diplomacy.”
“Both sides need to get a read on the other, and look for where there’s some room to build a little confidence,” he said. “And so this helps both sides understand priorities and any possible flexibility, in terms of the early stage resumption of diplomacy… even to allow the visas sends a positive signal that the U.S. will at least talk.”
If the talks go ahead, finding consensus that could lead to track one talks with serving U.S. government officials will remain difficult, said Daniel Pinkston, a long-time North Korea watcher and instructor at Troy University.
“The U.S. has been ready to talk anytime to discuss the implementation of North Korea’s non-proliferation commitments,” he said.
“North Korea is always ready to talk about the rest of the world accepting its nuclear status… so that’s why we have deadlock and nothing to discuss in a track one setting.”
As such, the proposed talks would give the “U.S. side an opportunity to explain how allied deterrence is robust, and the laws of war and international humanitarian law… and that nuclear weapons will not bring economic prosperity or international respect and prestige – in fact, the very opposite.”
South Korea’s foreign and unification ministries had not responded to the news as of Monday morning KST. Both ministries have repeatedly said it is an inappropriate time for Seoul to consider talks with the North due to Pyongyang’s September missile test and subsequent missile tests.
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.
A source familiar with the preparations confirmed to NK News on Monday that talks described by the Post were being planned, but would not clarify further details.
How effective any potential talks will be is difficult to predict: an NK News investigation in 2015 found that while more than $5 million had been spent on Track 1.5/2 dialogues since 2009, participants struggled to point to tangible successes. And while supporters argue that any talks are better than none, detractors argue they are ineffective and may even be used to legitimize the regime.
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Featured Image: WHITE HOUSE by airlines470 on 2010-08-12 16:25:07