Washington, Feb 19 (IANS) The US and North Korea were seriously considering exchanging liaison officers, an incremental step towards normalising relations while the two sides negotiate to curtail Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile forces, informed sources told CNN.
The development comes ahead of President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s second summit slated to take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27-28. They first met in Singapore last June.
On the US side, the sources told CNN on Monday that there would be several liaison officers sent to set up office in North Korea, led by a senior foreign service officer who speaks Korean, if this plan were to move forward.
A similar agreement was made by the Bill Clinton administration in 1994, with the “Agreed Framework” leading to extensive negotiating over exchanging liaison offices in each country, beginning with up to seven officers in each.
At the time, the US even went so far as to sign a lease for space in the German mission. North Korea also looked at possible sites in Washington, D.C.
But by the end of the following year, North Korea cancelled the plan, thought to be because of tensions after a US helicopter was shot down when it crossed over the Demilitarized Zone into North Korea.
The sources also said that the proposal might be discussed further when Stephen Biegun, the US special envoy for Pyongyang, meets his North Korean counterpart in Hanoi before the scheduled summit take place.
The State Department and North Korea were yet to officially comment on the development.
Trump officially announced the second summit at his State of the Union address on February 5, touting his administration’s efforts on North Korea while noting that “much work remains to be done”.