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‘U.S. experts on Korea to visit Pyongyang this week’

About five or six U.S. experts on Korean affairs are scheduled to visit Pyongyang sometime this week, a diplomatic source here said Sunday.

“Experts and scholars who study issues on the Korean Peninsula have been invited by the North Korean foreign ministry and may visit the North this week,” the source said. “The purpose of their trip isn’t known, and I am trying to find out more about their trip and also the intentions of North Korea.”

The U.S. delegation will reportedly include Joel Wit, a researcher at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and Charles Ferguson, president of the Federation of American Scientists and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The U.S. experts’ trip comes about a month after North Korea and the U.S. met in Geneva to discuss how to revive the stalled six-nation talks aimed at Pyongyang’s denuclearization. It was their second bilateral encounter in a span of less than three months but provided little breakthrough.

Diplomatic sources here speculate that North Korea may seek to deliver the U.S. some sort of a message through the visiting scholars.

With a third round of the U.S.-North Korea meeting expected next month, sources believe North Korea may also express its position on preconditions to the resumption of the six-party talks demanded by Seoul and Washington, namely the suspension of Pyongyang’s uranium enrichment program.

In November last year, North Korea invited U.S. security experts Jack Pritchard and Siegfried Hecker, and showed them its uranium enrichment plant with 2,000 centrifuges, apparently pressuring the U.S. to come to the dialogue table.

A South Korean government official noted that North Korea has called in U.S. scholars at critical moments to deliver whatever messages it wanted to, but the situation may be different this year than the last.

“Last year, there were no talks between the U.S. and North Korea,” the official said. “But now, the two sides have had bilateral meetings, so we’re keeping a close eye on whether any significant message will come out this time.” 

(Yonhap News)