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Beyond bluster, US, N. Korea in regular contact

Beyond the bluster, the Trump administration has been quietly engaged in back channel diplomacy with North Korea for several months, addressing Americans imprisoned in the communist country and deteriorating relations between the long-time foes, The Associated Press has learned.

 

It had been known the two sides had discussions to secure the June release of an American university student. But it wasn't known until now that the contacts have continued, or that they have broached matters other than US detainees.

 

People familiar with the contacts say the interactions have done nothing thus far to quell tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons
and missile advances, which are now fueling fears of military confrontation. But they say the behind-the-scenes discussions could still be a foundation for more serious negotiation, including on North Korea's nuclear weapons, should President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un put aside the bellicose rhetoric of recent days and endorse a dialogue.

 

Trump refused to discuss the diplomatic contacts. "We don't want to talk about progress, we don't want to talk about back channels," Trump told reporters Friday. The diplomatic contacts are occurring regularly between Joseph Yun, the US envoy for North Korea policy, and Pak Song Il, a senior North Korean diplomat at the country's UN mission, according to US officials and others briefed on the process. They weren't authorized to discuss the confidential exchanges and spoke on condition of anonymity.