Trump Administration Quietly Engages in Back-channel Talks With North Korea

Despite the bellicose rhetoric coming from President Trump, the White House has quietly engaged in back channel diplomacy with North Korea for months, a new report said Friday.

The talks focused on Americans imprisoned in the communist dictatorship and fraying relations between the long-time foes, The Associated Press reported.

The two sides had discussions to secure the June release of an American university student, who arrived back home in a coma and later died.

But it wasn’t known until now that the contacts have continued, or that they have broached matters other than US detainees.

People familiar with the contacts told the news service that the interactions have done nothing thus far to quell tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile advances, which are now fueling fears of military confrontation.

But they say the behind-the-scenes discussions could still be a foundation for more serious negotiation, including on North Korea’s nuclear weapons, should Trump and North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un put aside the over-the-top threats of recent days and agree to talks.

The contacts are occurring regularly between Joseph Yun, the US envoy for North Korea policy, and Pak Song Il, a senior North Korean diplomat at the country’s UN mission, according to US officials and others briefed on the process. Officials call it the “New York channel.”

Yun is the only US diplomat in contact with any North Korean counterpart and the communications largely serve as a way to exchange messages, allowing Washington and Pyongyang to relay information.

Drowned out by the furor over Trump’s warning to North Korea of “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has expressed a willingness to entertain negotiations.

His condition: Pyongyang stopping tests of missiles that can now potentially reach the US mainland, something Kim said won’t happen.

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SOURCE: Bob Fredericks 
New York Post