SEOUL (Reuters) – Plans for the first contact between North Korea and the United States after President Donald Trump took office were canceled after the U.S. State Department denied a visa for the top envoy from Pyongyang, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.
The talks, between senior North Korean foreign ministry envoy Choe Son Hui and former U.S. officials, were scheduled to take place on March 1 and 2 in New York but were called off after Choe was denied a visa, the Journal said.
It was not clear what led the State Department to deny the visa but North Korea’s test-firing of a ballistic missile on Feb. 12 and the murder of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother in Malaysia may have played a role, the report said.
South Korean and U.S. officials have said they believe North Korean agents assassinated Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of Kim Jong Un, on Feb. 13.
A U.S. State Department official denied so-called track two discussions had been scheduled.
“The U.S government had no plans to engage in track 2 talks in New York,” the official said, declining comment on individual visa cases.
A South Korean foreign ministry official declined to comment on the report of the canceled meeting in New York, saying the reported plan did not involve the U.S. or South Korean government.
The meeting in New York would have been the first time a senior North Korean envoy would visit the United States since 2011 and the first contact between U.S. and North Korean representatives since Trump took office.
Choe, director general for North American affairs at the North’s foreign ministry, has previously met former U.s. officials and academics, the last time in November in Geneva for informal discussions.
Trump said in a Reuters interview on Thursday that he was concerned about North Korea’s ballistic missile tests and “it’s a very dangerous situation”. Trump did not ruling out meeting Kim at some point in the future under certain circumstances but suggested it might be too late.
(Reporting by Jack Kim and Tony Munroe in SEOUL; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON; Editing by Lincoln Feast)