N. Korea-US meeting yields no denuclearization progress

January 30, 2015
North Korea's Ri Yong-ho was one of the representatives in the meeting. (Yonhap)

North Korea’s chief nuclear envoy Ri Yong-ho was one of the representatives in the meeting. (Yonhap)

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) — No new proposal was made when top North Korean nuclear negotiators held rare meetings in Singapore with former American negotiators and scholars earlier this month, a senior South Korean official said Thursday.

Pyongyang’s chief nuclear envoy, Ri Yong-ho, his deputy, Choe Son-hui, and other senior North Korean diplomats held meetings in Singapore on Jan. 18-19 with former U.S. special envoy for North Korea policy Stephen Bosworth and other American security experts.

The rare meetings drew attention as they came amid a prolonged deadlock in denuclearization negotiations with the North. They also came after Pyongyang offered to temporarily suspend nuclear tests in exchange for a halt to joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises, though Washington rejected the proposal as an “implicit threat.”

“It appears nothing new came up” during the meetings, a senior South Korean official said on condition of anonymity because South Korea was not involved in the talks. “It appears the discussions went about what we can always guess.”

Even before the meetings, the U.S. had downplayed the contact, saying it would only be “one of many” nongovernmental “Track 2″ meetings held to discuss security issues in East Asia, and that the U.S. government is not involved in it.

“Track 2″ diplomacy refers to nongovernmental, unofficial contacts between private citizens or groups of individuals while “Track 1″ diplomacy refers to officials government-to-government contacts.

Relations between the U.S. and the North have worsened further recently following a cyber-attack on Sony Pictures. The U.S. has blamed the North for carrying out the attacks and imposed fresh sanctions, but Pyongyang has categorically denied any involvement.

The six-party denuclearization talks with North Korea have been stalled since late 2008.

Many analysts say the administration of President Barack Obama has little interest in resuming negotiations with Pyongyang. The U.S. has demanded Pyongyang take concrete steps demonstrating its denuclearization commitments before nuclear talks reopen.