Revealed: Trump’s secret North Korea back channel. Diplomat codenamed ‘New York’ is passing messages to dictator as president piles on pressure in public

Friday, August 11, 2017
By Paul Martin

Trump is ratcheting up the tension with Kim Jong Un in public but in private a senior diplomat is able to send messages to the North Korean regime
Joseph Yun, U.S. envoy for North Korea policy, speaks to Pak Song Il, a senior North Korean diplomat at the country’s U.N. mission in New York
There were no discussions over the last seven months of Obama’s presidency after Pyongyang broke them off in anger over U.S. sanctions on Kim
But Trump’s administration quickly re-opened to conduit and held talks on having Otto Warmbier freed
Until now it had not been known that the secret back channel was still being used, raising hopes that Pyongyang will be willing to negotiate

11 August 2017

Beyond the bluster, the Trump administration has been quietly engaged in back channel diplomacy with North Korea for several months, addressing Americans imprisoned in the communist country and deteriorating relations between the long-time foes, The Associated Press has learned.

It had been known the two sides had discussions to secure the June release of an American university student.
But it wasn’t known until now that the contacts have continued, or that they have broached matters other than U.S. detainees.

People familiar with the contacts say 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 President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un put aside the bellicose rhetoric of recent days and endorse a dialog.

The contacts are occurring regularly between Joseph Yun, the U.S. envoy for North Korea policy, and Pak Song Il, a senior North Korean diplomat at the country’s U.N. mission, according to U.S. officials and others briefed on the process. They weren’t authorized to discuss the confidential exchanges and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Officials call it the ‘New York channel.’ Yun is the only U.S. diplomat in contact with any North Korean counterpart. 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 U.S. mainland.

Tillerson has even hinted at an ongoing back channel. ‘We have other means of communication open to them, to certainly hear from them if they have a desire to want to talk,’ he said at an Asian security meeting in the Philippines this week.

The interactions could point to a level of pragmatism in the Trump administration’s approach to the North Korean threat, despite the president’s dire warnings.

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