Former US officials, senior North Korea reps reportedly prepare for talks

Senior North Korean officials are reportedly preparing to come to the U.S. to talk with former government officials, the first time a meeting has happened on U.S. soil since 2011.

The officials representing the U.S. usually take part in Track 2 – or unofficial – talks with North Korea, The Washington Post reported Sunday. North Korean government officials were still preparing for the talks. The State Department has not yet approved visas for the Pyongyang officials, according to the paper.

“The North Koreans have expressed an interest in engagement, but nothing’s been approved yet,” a person familiar with the planned talks told The Post.

Should the talks go on, some might see it as an indication that North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un is willing to open up a dialogue with the Trump administration, despite Kim’s hopes to develop a nuclear weapon and recent missile tests.

So-called “Track 1.5” talks have previously taken place in Kuala Lumpur, Geneva, Berlin and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, but haven’t taken place in the U.S. since July 2011 – before Kim took over power in North Korea.

The newspaper reported that the meeting was being organized by Donald S. Zagoria of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. He worked as a consultant on Asia during President Carter’s administration and organized previous talks. The talks are planned to be ran independently of the State Department. However, if the visas are approved, it would be seen as approval from the State Department.

Choe Son Hui is expected to lead the Pyongyang delegation. Choe is director of the U.S. affairs department in North Korea’s Foreign Ministry. She previously participated in six-party talks on North Korea’s denuclearization and other Track 1.5 talks.

Aside from recent rhetoric from the Trump administration on North Korea’s missile tests and Kim’s insistence his missile launches are for protection, upcoming U.S.-South Korea military drills could put a damper on talks before the visas are even considered.

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