Well, this is very interesting.
This, as far as I can tell, a YouTube clip from ResetKBS! claiming that US officials apparently made a secret trip to Pyongyang on April 7, apparently in a last-ditch, ultimately unsuccessful effort to head off North Korea’s missile launch. (I hasten to add that I suspect the video is all stock footage to spruce up the report.)
(“ResetKBS!” is an online newscast by striking Korean journalists, so this is sort of state-run Korean Broadcasting System without, well, the state-run part. This thing was a pain in the butt to find, not least because I can’t speak Korean.)
The sourcing on the claim is a little unclear to me — I don’t speak Korean and the various English press accounts describe the details a little differently. You can get the gist from Kyodo, Manichi, and The Daily Who Knows? Generally speaking, the story is that the super-secret trip was compromised when Japanese air traffic controllers handed over the aircraft to their South Korean counterparts and stated the destination as “Pyongyang Sunan Airport.”
Toria Nuland and Glyn Davies both opted for variations on “no comment” when asked about the report in separate pressers. Here is Nuland in Washington on May 18:
QUESTION: — there is a media report coming out of South Korea stating that high-level U.S. Government officials visited Pyongyang on April 7th, just about a week before the missile launch. Did any U.S. Government officials go to Pyongyang to visit prior to the satellite launch?
MS. NULAND: I have no comment on that report at all.
And here is Davies in South Korea on May 21:
QUESTION: One question. Can you tell us about the details, the nature of the visit by the U.S. officials to Pyongyang? There have been some news reports that there was a visit by U.S. officials to Pyongyang, around the time that they launched, right before they launched the [unclear] . . .
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I don’t have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Well, was there a trip, or you just can’t talk about it?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I am just not — I don’t have anything for you. I understand you need to ask this question, but I cannot help you with . . . Yes?
On April 4, I noted rumors that Glyn Davies wasn’t talking to the press. I guess this would be one explanation.
On April 5, Chris Nelson reported that the Administration had “turned down” a request by Kim Gye Gwan for a last minute meeting. Or not. It’s hard to know if the source — who provided the letter to Chris — was mistaken, attempting to misdirect the policy community through Chris or if there was some last minute decision to take the meeting.
Why all the secrecy after the fact? I suppose one possibility is that the sensitive piece of information involves who took the trip, rather than the fact of a trip itself. But now I am just speculating in print, which is a bad idea. Time to stop that.