EIR: Press Release


Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering Confirms U.S. and North Korea Are Involved in Informal Talks

Sept. 19, 2017 (EIRNS)—Back-channel, or “track two” discussions are continuing between the United States and North Korea. This was again confirmed by former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering, in an interview with RIA Novosti.

Last May, the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s bureau chief for North America, Choi Sun Hee, said she had met with Pickering, not ruling out the possibility of bilateral contacts with the United States “under the right circumstances.”

More recently the same Choi Sun Hee, met with Russia’s ambassador to Pyongyang to discuss the tensions on the Korean Peninsula, according to the South Korean wire service Arirang. The Russian embassy in the North Korean capital said that the North Korean official shared candid views on the current situation with Alexander Matzegora and vowed to enhance mutual understanding between the two countries. They also agreed to hold further talks at a later date.

For his part, Ambassador Pickering noted:

“Without reference to the confirmation of any particular meeting or not, I think that it’s clear to say that we have engaged in ‘track two’ discussions with North Koreans, the ones they’ve talked about. My own view is that they have been useful, but they have not led to any instant diplomatic breakthrough,”

Pickering told RIA.

“Sometimes ‘track two’ contacts are useful to the parties as a way of exchanging ideas and opening the door to new ways of thinking about the problem.

‘Track two’ discussions that I’ve been engaged in have involved briefings of the U.S. government before and after the discussions have taken place. It’s not an effort to supplant the government or to replace it, but to try to help them understand … what’s going on,”

he said.

According to Sputnik, Pickering’s statement follows a report from Japan’s NHK broadcaster that last week Evans Revere, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, had met with Choe Kang Il, the deputy director general for North American affairs at North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, on the sidelines of the international conference in Switzerland on security issues in Northeast Asia. Sputnik said there were no further details of the meeting.

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