WASHINGTON: A top State Department official met a top representative of the North Korean government in New York in March, The Cable has learned.

Clifford Hart, the State Department’s special envoy to the now-defunct six-party talks, met North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations Han Song-ryol in mid-March, just before North Korea began its latest string of provocative statements and actions, diplomatic sources said.

The meeting was done through what’s known in diplomatic circles as the “New York channel,” the most common method of direct communication between Washington and Pyongyang.

No real progress was made during the meeting and no new offers were made by the US officials present, the sources said. The US side simply reiterated the administration’s call for North Korea to avoid provocative actions as well as its offer for a return to diplomacy if North Korea recommitted to fulfilling its international obligations and pursuing a path of denuclearisation. The North Korean side simply agreed to communicate that information back to Pyongyang.For outside experts critical of the Obama administration’s current approach to North Korea, which is based on the principle of “strategic patience,” or waiting for Pyongyang to change its calculus and rejoin multilateral talks, the meeting is only the latest indication that the administration’s policy is stagnant.

“Unfortunately, the New York channel, which in the past was an important communications link between Pyongyang and Washington, appears to have become a place where boilerplate talking points are exchanged” former nuclear negotiator Joel Wit told The Cable. “It’s especially disappointing given the ongoing crisis which puts a premium on candid communication to avoid misunderstanding and to find a diplomatic off-ramp from the current tense situation.”

Most recently, the New York channel was used to warn the State Department just before North Korea tested a nuclear bomb for the third time in February. North Korea is expected to test a medium-range ballistic missile as early as Wednesday and another warning could come to the Obama administration via North Korea’s representative office at the UN.

A former US official who worked on North Korea in past administrations described how the New York channel works in an interview with The Cable just after the last nuclear test.

“It’s been the main channel of communication between the North Korean government and the US government. We don’t have any other channels we use,” the official said.

Han, the main official who runs the New York channel, also represented North Korea at two unofficial meetings with U.S. interlocutors in 2012 that were reported by The Cable, one in Singapore and one in Dalian, China. Hart attended the Dalian meeting.The State Department declined to comment on the March New York meeting, in keeping with its past reticence to discuss the New York channel.

“They’re afraid of their shadows,” the former official said.” It’s like ‘No one can know we are actually communicating with these people because they are bad’.”

Secretary of State John Kerry is to visit China, South Korea and Japan later this week. A senior administration told CNN that Kerry will try to present a diplomatic path out of the crisis during his trip.

By arrangement with Washington Post-Bloomberg

Opinion

Editorial

Police excesses
Updated 13 Aug, 2022

Police excesses

Crass thuggery and victimisation of ordinary citizens are unlikely to earn govt plaudits from any quarter.
Afghan cleric’s killing
13 Aug, 2022

Afghan cleric’s killing

THAT a suicide bomber belonging to the self-styled Islamic State group managed to target a senior Taliban cleric in...
No room for hockey
13 Aug, 2022

No room for hockey

THERE have been accusations and clarifications as the blame game rumbles on. Yet despite workers of the PTI ...
Militancy redux
Updated 12 Aug, 2022

Militancy redux

There is fear and confusion all around, and it is for the state to bring clarity to the situation.
Distorting history
12 Aug, 2022

Distorting history

WHEN history is co-opted by ideologically overzealous elements, expect the facts to die a quick death, and...
Dengue danger
12 Aug, 2022

Dengue danger

WITH rains continuing across most of the country, a dengue outbreak can quickly become a major headache for health...