Trump administration nixes informal talks with North Korea
Elise Labott, CNN, Feb 26 2017
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 Pindosi experts and a six-member team of North Koreans led by Choe Son-hui, the director of the Pindosi affairs bureau of the country’s foreign ministry. Donald Zagoria, the head of 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 claimed that VX nerve agent was used to assassinate Kim Jong Nam, the estranged brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on Feb 13 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport as he waited to board a flight to Macau. South Korea has accused Pyongyang of ordering the killing, and the Malaysian government has implicated four North Koreans in Kim’s death. In canceling the talks, top Trump administration officials seem to have overruled State Dept officials, who supported the talks, one of the people who planned to attend said. A source said:
I think it was the VX that really made the difference. Someone looked at this and said, ‘Wait a minute, we should not be doing this right now.’
Kim’s death came on the heels of North Korea’s ballistic missile test on Feb 12, which coincided with Japanese PM Abe’s visit with Pres Trump. Abe was dining with the President at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, when the launch took place. North Koreans and Pindosis have met in informal “Track 2” settings in recent years in Berlin and Malaysia. The last meeting in Pindostan was in 2012, when a delegation from Pyongyang attended a closed-door conference in New York. Jackass Kerry as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met with the leader of the North Korean delegation, Ri Yong Ho, who at the time was the country’s representative to the six-party talks with Pindostan, South Korea, China and Russia over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Ri is now North Korea’s foreign minister. The Obama administration did not approve visas for future talks because North Korea continued nuclear and missile tests. The group of Pindos planning to take part in next week’s talks included a former Ambassador to China, a negotiator with North Korea under Clinton 42, a top Asia adviser under Bush 43 and a former principal deputy Asst Sec State specializing in North Korea. No currently serving Pindo boxtops 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 Pindo participants would also have briefed the administration on the discussions. One of them said:
It would have signaled a new start and suggest the Trump administration was more open to discussion. In that sense there could have been a little movement.
The annual joint military drills between Pindostan and South Korea are set to begin next month. The North Koreans might have started Pindo to eat Pindo Jew shit, the sources said, but even if they had, they stressed that such a development “wouldn’t have necessarily been a springboard” for the resumption of the six-nation disarmament talks. A State Dept spox would only say:
The Pindo government had no plans to engage in track 2 talks in New York. We do not discuss details of individual visa cases.