N. Korean officials meet U.S. experts in Oslo

May 9, 2017

OSLO, May 8 (Yonhap) — North Korean officials began informal talks Monday with a group of American experts in Oslo, Norway, amid speculation that Washington may seek dialogue with Pyongyang, diplomatic sources said.

It’s their first Track II meeting in half a year. The previous session was held in Geneva, Switzerland.

“It’s my understanding that dialogue between North Korean government officials and U.S. civilian experts opened today (Monday) in a suburb of Oslo and will continue through tomorrow,” a source here said.

The North Korean delegation is reportedly led by Choe Son-hui, director-general of the North America bureau chief of the communist nation’s foreign ministry. Her counterpart is Suzanne DiMaggio, director and senior fellow at New America, a think tank based in Washington D.C., according to another source.

This composite image provided by Yonhap News TV shows North Korean diplomats Choe Son-hui (L), head of the foreign ministry's North America bureau, and Jang Il-hoon, deputy ambassador to the U.N. (Yonhap)This composite image provided by Yonhap News TV shows North Korean diplomats Choe Son-hui (L), head of the foreign ministry’s North America bureau, and Jang Il-hoon, deputy ambassador to the U.N. (Yonhap)

This week’s meeting comes amid a let-up in military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The North did not conduct a nuclear test or a long-range rocket launch in April despite a view that it may take such a provocative act to mark a series of key political events in the month.

In South Korea, its people are about to pick their new president, with expectations running high over a change of mood in inter-Korean ties that have long been frosty.

The U.S. State Department would not attach any special meaning to the Track II dialogue, which is held semi-regularly.

But North Korea watchers took note of the timing of the meeting this time, saying it may provide the two sides with a chance for sort of “exploratory” talks.

U.S. President Donald Trump often talks tough about North Korea, emphasizing the need to put more pressure on the Kim Jong-un regime.

He recently said, however, he would meet Kim “under the right circumstances.”

“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it,” Trump said in a Bloomberg interview earlier this month.

Citing diplomatic sources, Japan’s Kyodo news service offered some details of the preconditions set by Trump.

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are both shown on either side of a 3D outline of North Korea skinned with the North Korean flag in this composite image provided by Yonhap News TV. (Yonhap) U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are both shown on either side of a 3D outline of North Korea skinned with the North Korean flag in this composite image provided by Yonhap News TV. (Yonhap)

He reportedly told China that he is open to meeting Kim in the U.S. if the North abandons its ambitions for weapons of mass destruction.

“The idea is part of a set of proposals that the United States floated during recent discussions with Chinese officials on how best to deal with the North Korean nuclear issue,” Kyodo reported.

If the North scraps its nuclear and missile programs, according to the U.S. proposals, the Trump administration would not seek a regime change, regime collapse, an “accelerated” reunification of the two Koreas, or a push to move the inter-Korean borderline northwards, said Kyodo.

China apparently conveyed the message to Pyongyang, it added, while many observers are skeptical about any significant denuclearization deal between the two sides.

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