‘He’s such a dreamer:’ Skepticism dogs U.S. envoy’s North Korean peace efforts

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By Reuters news|Upgraded: November 03, 2017

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun (R) answers questions from reporters following meeting with Japan and South Korea chief nuclear negotiators to talk about North Korean issues at the Iikura guest house in Tokyo, Japan April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Yamanaka/Pool/File Photo

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) – Saddled with the most difficult task in American diplomacy, the primary U.S. arbitrator with North Korea stands in between a U.S. president who insists he doesn’t wish to talk and an enemy who shows no interest in listening.

While veteran State Department Asia hand Joseph Yun might be Washington’s finest diplomatic hope for minimizing the risk of a devastating war on the Korean peninsula, he serves an administration riven by departments over ways to handle Pyongyang.

On the other side, North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, shows little interest in working out either, at least not till he has actually established a nuclear-tipped rocket efficient in striking the United States mainland.

In spite of the challenging obstacles, South Korean-born Yun has told others and coworkers he hopes his diplomatic efforts can lower the temperature level in an unsafe nuclear stand-off, inning accordance with Reuters interviews with more than a lots former and current U.S. authorities and South Korean diplomats.

The majority of were deeply doubtful about his possibilities.

” He’s such a dreamer,” a White House official said, with a note of sarcasm.

” We don’t think this is going anywhere,” stated another U.S. official, although he recommended it was still beneficial to keep engaging at some level with the North Koreans as long as Yun does not seem undermining President Donald Trump’s public rejection of direct settlements.

Trump has told assistants that his military risks will drive North Korea to rein and capitulate in its nuclear and rocket programs, 4 White House authorities said, a view not shared amongst many U.S. intelligence agencies.

Yun, however, is silently pursuing direct diplomacy with North Korean officials at the United Nations and has a required to talk about issues beyond the release of U.S. residents, a senior State Department authorities told Reuters today. In June, he protected the release of U.S. student Otto Warmbier, who returned to the United States in a coma and passed away days later.


Trump visited Asia on Friday as a senior aide warned the world is “running out of time” on the North Korea crisis. Behind the scenes, Yun is attempting to keep open a vulnerable line of interaction that might be utilized to prevent any miscalculation by one side or the other from spiraling into military conflict.

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Even more aggravating stress, two U.S. strategic bombers conducted drills over South Korea on Thursday. That followed word from South Korea’s spy company that North Korea may be preparing another rocket launch.

U.S. authorities have said independently that intercepting a test missile is amongst options under consideration, though there is dispute within the administration about the risks.

In the midst of this is Yun, a soft-spoken, 32-year foreign service veteran who took on the job a year back, near the end of the Obama administration.

He is grappling with Trump’s strident rhetoric as well as argument amongst the president’s leading aides over whether saber-rattling will require Kim to capitulate and exactly what the limit for any military actions need to be, inning accordance with numerous U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Concern about Yun’s difficulties has appeared in Seoul, where he checks out frequently and where Trump will travel next week on the 2nd stop of his Asian trip.

A number of South Korean officials expressed concern that Yun’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea do not have any genuine underpinning of assistance from the White House.

” Things are plainly difficult for him,” one South Korean diplomat stated. “Yun is exactly that person (to talk with North Korea), but Trump is eliminating the whole procedure.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed reporters on Sept. 30 the United States was probing for a diplomatic opening, just to be slapped down by Trump, who informed him via Twitter this was a waste of time.

At the exact same time, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who regularly briefs Trump on intelligence matters and is considered among the most hawkish voices on North Korea in the president’s inner circle, has apparently gotten stature.

Several officials knowledgeable about those conversations state Pompeo is feeding Trump evaluations that U.S. military hazards will require Kim to bow to U.S. needs for nuclear disarmament, a position that some U.S. intelligence officers privately contest.

The CIA declined comment.


A U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity stated Yun has ended up being diplomatically “untethered,” not fully connected to a core U.S. technique that is stressing financial sanctions and the hazard of military action rather than diplomacy.

The one concrete accomplishment of Yun’s diplomatic efforts in the previous year was winning the release of 22-year-old Warmbier in secret talks with North Korean authorities in Oslo and New York. Yun flew to Pyongyang in June to clinically leave Warmbier.

When Choe Son Hui, head of the North Korean foreign ministry’s North America bureau, met Yun in Oslo, she was unaware of how serious Warmbier’s condition was, a source in Washington knowledgeable about the matter said.Image result for 'He's such a dreamer:' Skepticism dogs U.S. envoy's North Korean peace efforts

But once she learnt more about it she was “surprised” and Yun was summoned urgently to meet a North Korean diplomat in New York, which quickly led to Warmbier’s return house, the source stated.

Warmbier’s death made complex Yun’s efforts as it added to a chilling of U.S.-North Korean contacts around that time, the State Department authorities stated.


In spite of Trump’s risks of military action versus Pyongyang, the State Department official said Yun’s view was “the less you engage diplomatically, the more likely you remain in the dark.”.

Even so, Trump’s rhetoric has raised concerns among allies, and perhaps even in North Korea, about how severe, if at all, his administration has to do with diplomacy and how much of a required Yun may have to pursue it.

Trump “customized” the dispute– deriding Kim as “Little Rocket Man” – versus the advice of his nationwide security and intelligence professionals, some of whom warned it could be detrimental, a senior national security authorities said.
Another main explained, nevertheless, that Trump, who in May said he would be honored to satisfy Kim, had not tossed any fresh insults at Kim in current days, raising hopes for a modified technique.

A South Korean authorities in Seoul said it was required for Washington to have someone in contact with North Korea to help stimulate future negotiations if they are ever to take hold.

However Trump’s nationwide security consultant, H.R. McMaster, informed Japan’s NHK tv today: “What we can not afford to do is participate in these long, dragged out settlements that permit North Korea to utilize these negotiations as cover for continuing their nuclear and missile programs.”.

Former U.S. mediators sympathize with Yun, whose authority to work out has actually been undercut by the tug-of-war between a White House breathing fire and a State Department pressing a peaceful solution.

” Nobody questioned my authority,” said Wendy Sherman, among the lead U.S. mediators who attained the 2015 offer under which.

Iran accepted limit its nuclear program in return for remedy for economic sanctions. “All of this undermines our capability to do the task.”.

Robert Gallucci, who was chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994 and has actually had recent contact with Yun, said the envoy is “practical about the difficulties of working out in the present environment, including the tone set by the president, but he believes in the objective even as his method is guided by realism.”.