Is Seoul in the loop on reported secret U.S., N. Korea talks? Blue House isn’t saying

by WorldTribune Staff, April 8, 2018

South Korea said reports of a secret U.S.-North Korea dialogue prior to President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un would be a “good sign,” but Seoul stopped short of saying it was a party to, or even aware of, the talks.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo

CNN reported on April 7 that U.S. officials, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, have been holding “secret, direct talks” with North Korean officials to prepare for the Trump-Kim summit. Trump previously agreed to meet Kim in May.

“We can’t really make a comment on the report, even if we know something,” a South Korea presidential office official who declined to be identified said, according to a Yonhap report. “But if such things are happening, it looks positive and it’s a good sign that they are talking.”

Yonhap said the report of U.S.-North Korea talks “is also expected to give energy to South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In to pursue his road map on the North Korea nuclear problem, since both U.S. and North Korea appeared to have suggested that they’re willing to sit at the negotiation table.”

CNN’s report, citing Trump administration officials, said that Pompeo “and a team at the CIA have been working through intelligence back-channels to make preparations” for the Trump-Kim summit.

“U.S. and North Korean intelligence officials have spoken several times and have even met in a third country, with a focus on nailing down a location for the talks,” the report said.

CNN reported that “The North Koreans are pushing to have the meeting in their capital, Pyongyang, the sources said, although it is unclear whether the White House would be willing to hold the talks there.”

North Korea has told the U.S. that Kim Jong-Un is prepared to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula when he meets with Trump, a U.S. official told Reuters on April 8.

The U.S. official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, declined to say exactly when the U.S.-North Korea communications had taken place but said the two sides had held multiple direct contacts.

On April 9, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton was due to begin his role as Trump’s national security adviser, while on April 12 Senate confirmation hearings begin for Pompeo, Trump’s nominee to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Both Bolton and Pompeo have taken hawkish stances on North Korea.

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