Trump administration nixes informal talks with North Korea

Washington Informal talks scheduled for next week between a North Korean delegation and a team of former US officials were canceled Friday after the Trump administration withdrew its initial approval of the North Koreans’ visas, two people who had planned to participate said.

The back-channel talks were to be held in New York between the US experts and a six-member team of North Koreans led by Choe Son-hui, the director of the American affairs bureau of the country’s foreign ministry.
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Donald Zagoria, the head of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, an advocacy group that was organizing the talks, emailed participants Friday morning to say next week’s meeting would proceed as scheduled after receiving assurances that the visas would be granted, the two participants said.
But hours later, Zagoria sent a follow-up email to the group saying the visas were not approved and the talks were off.
The last-minute withdrawal of the approval of the visas came hours after the Malaysian government announced that VX nerve agent was used to assassinate Kim Jong Nam, the estranged brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on February 13 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport as he waited to board a flight to Macau. The extremely toxic chemical is classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.


Although no currently serving American officials were scheduled to take part in the meeting, it would have signaled a potential for future progress if the Trump administration would have approved the visas. The American participants would also have briefed the administration on the discussions.
“It would have signaled a new start and suggest the Trump administration was more open to discussion,” one of the participants said. “In that sense there could have been a little movement.
Additionally, had the informal talks gone forward, North Korea might have tempered its usually bellicose reaction to the annual joint military drills between the US and South Korea, set to begin next month, the sources said.
But they stressed that such a development “wouldn’t have necessarily been a springboard” for the resumption of the six-nation disarmament talks.
A State Department spokesperson would only say, “The U.S. government had no plans to engage in track 2 talks in New York. We do not discuss details of individual visa cases.”

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