A GROUP of former US officials plans to seek informal talks with North Korean diplomats amid escalating tensions in the region and concern from neighbours over North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear arsenal.
The move is the latest in a string of fail attempts to get the two groups together since North Korea flaunted UN sanctions with repeated missile tests and has been accused of the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, on Malaysian soil.
According to a Bloomberg report, Joseph DeTrani, a former US intelligence specialist who helped broker a 2005 agreement on North Korea’s nuclear programme, said his group planned to contact the North Korean missions to the UN at the beginning of April to arrange the meetings.
The goal of the US camp is for the informal talks to eventually lead to exploratory meetings between current US officials and North Korea.
Through these meetings, they hope they can discuss North Korea’s insistence on expanding their nuclear programme and open up discussion for a peace treaty.
It would also allow North Korea to express its objections to US-South Korea military exercises that have been taking place close to the border, antagonising the North Korean leadership.
“You have to give it a shot, re-engage, have some exploratory talks, and see if you can get some momentum on halting what they are doing, because it is beyond the pale right now,” DeTrani said in a March 10 interview.
The last attempt to bring the two parties together was scuppered back in February when the Trump administration withdrew its initial approval of the North Korean delegations’ visas.
According to CNN, the talks were scheduled to be held in New York between US experts and a six-member North Korean team.
Everything was on schedule for the meet until a withdrawal of the visa approval came just hours after the Malaysian government announced VX agent had been used in Jong Nam’s murder.
Following the assassination, Pyongyang continued their provocations with the simultaneous launch of four missiles into waters off the Japanese coast, saying the exercise was a drill for striking American bases in Japan.
The continued provocations had prompted US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to the region later this week.
During his five-day visit, which includes stops in Japan, China and South Korea, Tillerson hopes to placate the nervous parties involved and develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with North Korea’s volatile behaviour.
Jong Un’s actions have been putting increasing pressure on the US administration during the initial weeks of President Donald Trump’s term.
The talks between the two sides, while unofficial, are seen as a test of the willingness of the Trump administration to begin serious negotiations at a later date.
According to the New York Times, several nuclear weapon experts have urged Trump to send an envoy to North Korea or risk the country making significant advances in their weapons programme.
“Every six to seven weeks, North Korea may be able to add another nuclear weapon to its arsenal,” Siegfried S. Hecker, Los Alamos National Laboratory emeritus director and a senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, said.
Some experts believe former President Barack Obama’s failure to engage with North Korea was partly responsible for its nuclear advancement.