Obama official: Backing out of Iran deal would jeopardize U.S. diplomacy with North Korea

by WorldTribune Staff, October 5, 2017

Pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal “doesn’t make us tougher with North Korea … it isolates us from the rest of the world,” said an Obama administration official who helped broker the deal.

“North Korea will see this as we are unreliable and we don’t have credibility,” Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs in the Obama administration, said on Oct. 4. “And that no matter what kind of deal, we will not uphold it.”

Wendy Sherman. / Getty Images

The Trump administration has discussed withdrawing from the deal. President Donald Trump is required to certify Iran’s compliance with the terms of the deal by Oct. 15.

Radio Free Asia reported that Sherman, who coordinated North Korea policy during the Clinton administration, is reportedly among a handful of former U.S. government officials who could meet with a North Korean official in Moscow later this month.

The report said the meeting would take place with Choe Son-Hui, director-general of the North Korean foreign ministry’s North American affairs bureau, on the sidelines of a nonproliferation conference set to open in the Russian capital on Oct. 19.

“There aren’t structured discussions,” Sherman said when asked about the report. “I’m going principally to be on a panel about the Iran deal, and my understanding is that North Korea will have representatives at that conference. That’s the sum total of what I know.”

Meanwhile, a South Korea lawmaker, citing U.S. sources, said the United States quit having back channel dialogue with North Korea after the Kim Jong-Un regime conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last month.

Rep. Choung Byoung-Gug said the information was shared with him during one of his meetings with U.S. government officials in Washington since Oct. 1.

“I got the impression that there were talks up until the sixth nuclear test, and then they stopped,” Choung told reporters. “They told me they think the circumstances have changed.”

Rep. Chung Dong-Young, who led a delegation of ruling and opposition party members, including Choung, said many of the officials they met with reassured them there would be no military action short of an attack from the North.

“Many people said the U.S. hasn’t the slightest interest in a war absent a provocation from the North,” he said. “There was a unified message between the administration and Congress that the U.S. would defend South Korea in the event of an attack on Seoul. They also said that if the U.S. doesn’t take action in such a scenario, the international community will lose its confidence in the U.S. and questioned how Japan and other U.S. allies in Asia and Europe would view them.”

The Americans the delegation met with included Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce, California Republican, and Rep. Ted Yoho, Florida Republican, chairman of the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.

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