U.S. pursues direct talks with North Korea, despite Trump

The talks aim to rein in North Korea's weapons programs, secure the release of U.S. prisoners held in North Korea, and more generally improve bilateral relations, Time will tell if they make progress on any of these objectives, however.
By Tyler Henderson | Nov 02, 2017
The United States is pursuing direct diplomacy behind the scenes with North Korea, regardless of President Trump's assertion that such talks are a waste of time, a senior State Department official said Tuesday. The talks, some of which take place through a "New York channel" and involve North Korean diplomats within the communist state's United Nations mission, convey the U.S. government's desire to see North Korea cease its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and aim to ease ill will between the countries even while Trump and North Korean Kim Jong Un exchange insults on the world stage.

Some U.S. and South Korean officials have suggested that Joseph Yun, the U.S. negotiator with North Korea, has been "reined in." The state official asserted that this is not the case and that Yun has been using the New York channel to reach out to his North Korean counterparts and urge them to cease weapons testing.

"It has not been limited at all, both (in) frequency and substance," said the senior State Department official, describing the talks.

Yun was under instruction at the start of Trump's presidency to seek the release of U.S. prisoners, which at the time included the college student Otto Warmbier as well as Christian missionary Kim Dong Chul, university professor Kim Sang-duk, and agricultural consultant Kim Hak-song. Yun's mandate has broadened since then, according to the state official.

No indication has emerged yet that the talks are resolving any of the issues at hand, however. Three of the four prisoners are still in North Korean handsWarmbier, who died several days after his release, being the only exceptionand the country's missile-development programs continue to progress toward greater nuclear capability.

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