The United States has decided not to issue visas for a North Korean delegation that had been due to take part in planned “back-channel” talks with former US officials in New York.
The talks had been scheduled to take place between the North Korean delegation and the former US officials in New York in early March, according to the people on the participants’ list, who spoke on condition of anonymity, The New York Times reported Saturday.
On Friday morning, the US State Department told Donald S. Zagoria, from the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, who coordinated the talks, that the visas for the North Korean delegates would be granted. Hours later, however, the decision was reversed.
“A senior official in the State Department, the White House or elsewhere in the government had second thoughts about issuing visas to representatives of North Korea,” The Times wrote, citing a person familiar with the issue.
The six-member delegation from North Korea was to be led by Choe Son-hui, who runs the American affairs bureau of the North’s Foreign Ministry. Choe had planned to participate in the New York talks in her “nongovernmental” role as president of North Korea’s Institute for American Studies.
The participants for the US side included Winston Lord, a former ambassador to China, Robert L. Gallucci, a negotiator on North Korea during the Bill Clinton presidency, Victor Cha, a senior adviser on North Korea to former president George W. Bush; and Evans J. R. Revere, a former principal deputy assistant secretary of state specializing in North Korean affairs.
All these former officials had dealt with matters concerning North Korea over many years. Some of them had participated in previous talks with North Koreans, held in a third country.
But more weight was given to the upcoming talks because they were taking place at the start of the new administration of President Donald Trump.
During his election campaign, Trump had said he was open to political talks with North Korea, adding he would like to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over a hamburger.
The US delegation would have discussed the North’s rapidly expanding missile and nuclear programs as well as the fate of two Americans detained in North Korea, among other issues.