US special envoy for North Korea heading to S'pore for regional meet

Mr Yun, the State Department's special representative for North Korea policy, will be in Singapore from July 11 to 13 to attend the conference of the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD).
Mr Yun, the State Department's special representative for North Korea policy, will be in Singapore from July 11 to 13 to attend the conference of the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD). PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • A United States diplomat responsible for North Korea will participate in an informal conference next week in Singapore, but North Korean officials, who have attended in the past, will not join this year.

Ambassador Joseph Yun's trip was announced by the US State Department on Wednesday after North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that Pyongyang says can carry a large nuclear warhead and some experts believe has the range to reach Alaska.

Tuesday's test, the first of its kind by North Korea, triggered an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting and a call for global action by the US.

Mr Yun, the State Department's special representative for North Korea policy, will be in Singapore from July 11 to 13 to attend the conference of the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD), and will then travel to Myanmar. The North Korean mission to the UN said Pyongyang was not sending a delegation to the dialogue.

Mr Yun negotiated Pyongyang's release of Mr Otto Warmbier, a US student sentenced to 15 years' hard labour for trying to steal an item with a propaganda slogan, who returned to the US in a coma on June 13 and died on June 19. While visiting the North to secure his release, Mr Yun met three other Americans held there.

The NEACD describes itself as a forum where officials from China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia and the US can regularly meet, attending in a private capacity rather than as official government representatives.

The University of California at San Diego's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, which sponsors the conference, said North Korean officials attended the forum last year and in 2012.

Asked if there were plans for Mr Yun to meet North Korean officials during his trip, or if she would rule out such a meeting, Ms Katina Adams, a spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, replied: "There are no sideline meetings on Ambassador Yun's schedule that I am aware of."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2017, with the headline 'US special envoy for North Korea heading to S'pore for regional meet'. Print Edition | Subscribe