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North Korea, ex-U.S. officials meet for informal talks

By
Elizabeth Shim
At least one North Korea diplomat is to meet with former U.S. officials in Norway this week, according to a South Korean press report. File Photo by How Hwee Young/EPA
At least one North Korea diplomat is to meet with former U.S. officials in Norway this week, according to a South Korean press report. File Photo by How Hwee Young/EPA

May 8 (UPI) -- North Korea officials are meeting Monday and Tuesday with former U.S. officials for a round of informal talks known as Track 1.5, according to South Korean diplomatic sources.

The two sides are meeting in Oslo, Norway, for the first round of two-day talks in 2017, Yonhap news agency reported.

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Choi Sun Hee, the North America bureau chief of Pyongyang's foreign ministry, is expected to represent North Korea during the meeting with U.S. North Korea experts.

It was unclear which former U.S. official would be taking part in the talks, but former negotiator Robert Gallucci was named as one possibility, according to reports.

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A U.S. State Department official who spoke to Yonhap anonymously said such gatherings take place routinely in other fields of concern, and that the meeting this week is not affiliated with the Trump administration.

In April, U.S. officials had said a policy of "maximum pressure and engagement" would provide President Donald Trump direction when dealing with North Korea.

North Korea's willingness to engage in talks could also indicate Pyongyang is planning to stay away from major provocations this week, as South Korea holds its presidential election on Tuesday.

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In past informal talks North Korea had demanded U.S. recognition of Pyongyang's status as a nuclear weapons state.

Increased economic pressure from China and a growing rift with Beijing, however, may have influenced North Korea's decision so far to stay away from nuclear testing. It remains to be seen whether the pressure will produce a different North Korea approach to U.S.-related negotiations.

Pyongyang's state news media continued to denounce U.S.-South Korea military exercises on Monday and called the Trump administration "crazy."

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In 2016, North Korea officials met informally with U.S. experts in Geneva and in Malaysia.

Seoul has said the dialogues are not related to South Korea policy.

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