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Pyongyang Officials Prepare To Visit US For Talks

REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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Senior North Korean officials may soon come to America for a meeting with former U.S. officials, the first such meeting in over five years, reports The Washington Post.

If North Korea comes to the table, it may mean it’s willing to negotiate with the new administration.

Plans for the “Track 1.5” talks, which are expected to take place in New York within the next few weeks, are still in their early stages, the Post reports.

“The North Koreans have expressed an interest in engagement, but nothing’s been approved yet,” said one person familiar with the arrangements.

Recent events, however, may derail the planned discussions. North Korea tested a new nuclear-capable surface-to-surface mid-range ballistic missile Feb. 12. Kim Jong-un’s estranged older brother Kim Jong-nam was murdered in Malaysia the next day, and while nothing has been concluded, Pyongyang tops the suspect list. Furthermore, the U.S. and South Korea are preparing for Key Resolve — joint exercises perceived as a threat in North Korea.

Also, high-level defectors have revealed that North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons. “As long as Kim Jong-un is (in power), North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons,” Thae Yong-ho, a former diplomat at the North Korean Embassy in London who defected last year, explained, “the North will not give them up even if the country is offered $1 trillion or $10 trillion in return.”

Several “Track 1.5” talks have been held in cities around the world in recent years, but talks have not been held in the U.S. since 2011. The Department of State considers such talks “routine” and limited in their influence.

The talks are reportedly being arranged by Donald S. Zagoria of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. He has helped organize past discussions. If they take place, the North Korean delegation is expected to be led by Choe Son Hui, the director of the U.S. affairs department in North Korea’s Foreign Ministry. She has met with American officials in the past and is believed to be in direct communication with Kim Jong-un, the Post revealed.

The U.S. government will not meet with North Korea, a White House official told Reuters. If talks go well, it might open the door to negotiations and an easing of tensions between the U.S. and Pyongyang.

President Donald Trump has called North Korea a “big problem” that will be dealt with “strongly.”

“U.S. policy is hanging in the balance,” Adam Cathcart, a North Korea expert at the University of Leeds, told reporters.

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