US and N Korea hold unofficial talks in Malaysia
A GROUP of former US diplomats held closed-door talks at the weekend with senior Pyongyang officials, even as international efforts gather pace to further isolate North Korea, both diplomatically and economically.
The two-day meeting in Kuala Lumpur, which was confirmed by the South Korean and US governments, was the latest in a series of unofficial talks commonly referred to as Track 2 that are closely monitored in the absence of any official contact between Washington and Pyongyang.
In July, the North cut off its only remaining official channel of diplomatic communications with the United States in retaliation for American sanctions against its leader, Kim Jong-un.
The so-called “New York channel” had previously served as a key point of contact between North Korean and US diplomats at the United Nations.
American participants at the talks in the Malaysian capital included Robert Gallucci, who had led the US negotiating team that brokered a 1994 deal with Pyongyang on freezing its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Among those on the North Korean side was vice foreign minister Han Song-ryol, who previously served as deputy ambassador to the United Nations.
The meeting came after North Korea on October 20 test-fired a powerful new medium-range missile. Leon Sigal, an academic specialising in the Koreas who attended the talks, said the North’s nuclear weapons program had dominated the discussion.
Mr Sigal told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that the North had reiterated the need to sign a peace treaty with the United States before moving on its weapons program.
The US side stressed that the moves to scrap the nuclear program