Unofficial "Track 2" meetings are routinely held "independent of US government involvement," the State Department said Sunday after reports that a senior North Korean diplomat is set to hold talks with former US officials.
Japanese media reported that Choe Son-hui, director-general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry's bureau handling relations with the United States, headed to Europe via Beijing for talks with unidentified former US government officials.
|Choe Son-hui, director-general at the North Korean Foreign Ministry in charge of US affairs (Yonhap)|
"Track 2 meetings are routinely held on a variety of topics around the world and occur independent of US government involvement," a State Department official said without elaborating.
The envisioned meeting comes after the administration of President Donald Trump has expressed its willingness to hold direct talks with Pyongyang. Trump also said he would be "honored" to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un if such a meeting takes place under the right circumstances.
Choe reportedly planned to visit New York in March for similar unofficial talks. But the US denied visas for a delegation of North Korean diplomats set to travel to New York following the killing of the half brother of North Korea's leader in February.
In November, Choe was in Geneva for informal talks with former US government officials, including Joel Wit, editor of the website 38 North. It was the first such meeting since Donald Trump was elected US president in November last year.
South Korea's unification ministry Monday dismissed views that North Korea is seeking to hold talks with the US while marginalizing Seoul.
"We do not think that is the case," Lee Duk-haeng, the ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing.
Lee said that the government does not attach special meaning to the informal meeting.
"We do not view such talks with significance as we are closely cooperating with the US government over issues related to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," he said. "But we are keeping tabs on talks (with the North) that can take place at various levels." (Yonhap)