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U.S., North Korea diplomats meet in Malaysia for informal talks

A U.S. delegate said the talks signify progress and that it’s unlikely Pyongyang will engage in another provocation until the end of President Barack Obama’s term in office.

By Elizabeth Shim
Robert Gallucci, and two other U.S. North Korea experts met with diplomats from Pyongyang for an informal Track 2 dialogue in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. File Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/83e7ce1664b3421726af26439e8b8c1b/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Robert Gallucci, and two other U.S. North Korea experts met with diplomats from Pyongyang for an informal Track 2 dialogue in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. File Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Former U.S. officials met with North Korean diplomats for two days in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend, a gathering that was marked by "progress," according to one of the delegates.

The rare informal talks known as Track 2 come days after Pyongyang official Han Song Ryol was seen in Beijing, on his way to Malaysia.

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The U.S. delegation that includes former Clinton administration negotiator Robert Gallucci; Leon Sigal, a North Korea specialist; and former U.S. special envoy for North Korea Joseph DeTrani began Saturday, South Korean newspaper Seoul Daily reported Monday.

A South Korean official who spoke to Seoul Daily said the United States is taking a cautious approach, because "hasty dialogue only legitimizes North Korea's bad behavior," but Nam Sung-wook, a professor of North Korean studies at Korea University, said Seoul probably does not want to officially acknowledge the significance of the talks with North Korea because of its "alignment to sanctions policy."

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For North Korea, the informal talks are a way to feel out the next U.S. administration's policies, and to raise the stakes on a less flexible U.S.-South Korea position on Pyongyang's nuclear deterrent, Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported.

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Sigal said there was some progress during the dialogue and added it is unlikely anything will happen until the end of President Barack Obama's term in office, South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo reported.

Sigal also said the new administration should look into revising current North Korea policy in January.

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Han said he stated North Korea's position: the restart of a peace process, culminating in a peace treaty, before any discussion of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons or missile programs, according to the Donga.

The United States has maintained denuclearization is central to its North Korea policy.

China, North Korea's closest ally, had previously called for peace talks after the fourth nuclear test in January.

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