Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have reached a breaking point. Many fear we have crossed the point of no return, where war is all but certain. Or maybe not? A new report from the Associated Press says White House officials are presently holding secret talks with the Hermit Kingdom.
Beyond the bluster, the Trump administration has been quietly engaged in back channel diplomacy with North Korea for several months, addressing Americans imprisoned in the communist country and deteriorating relations between the long-time foes, The Associated Press has learned.
It had been known the two sides had discussions to secure the June release of an American university student. But it wasn’t known until now that the contacts have continued, or that they have broached matters other than U.S. detainees.
People familiar with the contacts say the interactions have done nothing thus far to quell tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile advances, which are now fueling fears of military confrontation. But they say the behind-the-scenes discussions could still be a foundation for more serious negotiation, including on North Korea’s nuclear weapons, should President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un put aside the bellicose rhetoric of recent days and endorse a dialogue.
The contacts are occurring regularly between Joseph Yun, the U.S. envoy for North Korea policy, and Pak Song Il, a senior North Korean diplomat at the country’s U.N. mission, according to U.S. officials and others briefed on the process. They weren’t authorized to discuss the confidential exchanges and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Officials call it the “New York channel.” Yun is the only U.S. diplomat in contact with any North Korean counterpart. The communications largely serve as a way to exchange messages, allowing Washington and Pyongyang to relay information.
Drowned out by the furor over Trump’s warning to North Korea of “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has expressed a willingness to entertain negotiations. His condition: Pyongyang stopping tests of missiles that can now potentially reach the U.S. mainland.
The North Korean regime held a massive rally on Thursday in response to the passage of the latest UN Security Council Resolution last Saturday.
North Koreans protest U.S. in the streets of Pyongyang following President Trump's 'fire and fury' warning. pic.twitter.com/6vBazz2tgs
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) August 10, 2017
A top general promised the “most miserable and merciless punishment” if the threats from President Trump continue.
NK News reported:
A North Korean military army chief pledged to impose the “most miserable and merciless punishment” on the U.S. if it did not stop attempts to “bring down” the DPRK’s ideology and system, the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), reported on Friday.
Military personnel of the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces held an outdoor mass rally on Thursday in response to the passage of the UN Security Council Resolution 2371 on Saturday.
The meeting was held at the Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War “to support the statement of the DPRK government and pledge to achieve the final victory in the confrontation with the U.S.,” according to the newspaper.
Ri Myong Su, chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), made a speech vowing to “sternly smash the U.S. imperialist heinous sanctions and scheme of pressure.”
“He declared that our invincible revolutionary armed forces will inflict the most miserable and merciless punishment [upon the U.S.] so that no one can [even] make an outcry or scream,” Ri reportedly said.