Plan for first North Korea-US contact after Trump took office is cancelled: Report

It was not clear what led the US State Department to deny the visa for the top envoy from Pyongyang, but President Donald Trump had said on Thursday (Feb 23) that he was concerned about North Korea's ballistic missile tests.
It was not clear what led the US State Department to deny the visa for the top envoy from Pyongyang, but President Donald Trump had said on Thursday (Feb 23) that he was concerned about North Korea's ballistic missile tests.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SEOUL (REUTERS) - Plans for the first contact between North Korea and the United States after President Donald Trump took office were cancelled after the US State Department denied a visa for the top envoy from Pyongyang, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Saturday (Feb 25).

The talks, between senior North Korean foreign ministry envoy Choe Son Hui and former US officials, were scheduled to take place on March 1 and 2 in New York but were called off after Choe was denied a visa, the WSJ said.

It was not clear what led the State Department to deny the visa but North Korea's test-firing of a ballistic missile on Feb 12 and the murder of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half brother in Malaysia may have played a role, the report said.

South Korean and US officials have said they believe North Korean agents assassinated Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of Kim Jong Un, on Feb 13.

A South Korean foreign ministry official declined to comment on the report of the cancelled meeting in New York, saying the reported plan did not involve the US or South Korean government. The US Embassy in Seoul did not have comment.

The meeting in New York would have been the first time a senior North Korean envoy would visit the United States since 2011 and the first contact between US and North Korean representatives since Trump took office.

Choe, director general for North American affairs at the North's foreign ministry, has previously met former US officials and academics, the last time in November in Geneva for informal discussions.

Trump said in a Reuters interview on Thursday that he was concerned about North Korea's ballistic missile tests and "it's a very dangerous situation".

He did not ruling out meeting Kim Jong Un at some point in the future under certain circumstances but suggested it might be too late.