Jeffrey LewisNorth Korea and the "New York Channel"

Joseph DeTrani (third from right) participates in a seminar
organized by the Chosun Ilbo and CSIS.

Spokespersons at the White House and US Embassy, Tokyo confirm “working-level contacts” between US officials and the DPRK mission at the United Nations.

Asahi Shimbun appears to have broken the story, but the Boston Globe has the best coverage:

Two senior State Department officials met last Friday with North Korean diplomats in New York in a quiet effort to convince the reclusive regime to return to negotiations over its nuclear program, the State Department confirmed yesterday.


Friday’s meeting, attended by Joseph DiTrani, the US special envoy to the six-nation nuclear talks, as well as Jim Foster, the head of the State Department’s Office of Korean Affairs, and North Korea’s representatives to the United Nations, is significant because the Bush administration has been avoiding direct communication with North Korea, saying North Korea should stop delaying and do its talking through the six-party negotiations.


Nancy Beck, a State Department spokeswoman, confirmed yesterday that US officials had ‘’working-level contact with North Korean officials” on Friday, using a term that refers to diplomatic contact below the highest levels. North Korea and the United States have no formal diplomatic relations, so meetings with North Korea’s UN representatives are the only form of direct communication.

‘’We use this channel to convey messages about US policy, not to negotiate,” Beck said.

Another State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States initiated the contact to encourage North Korea to return to the six-nation talks, but that it was unclear whether the meeting had made any impact.

Korean newspapers—the Korea Times and Korea Herald—anticipated renewed contact through New York after State Department Spokesman Tom Casey denied on 10 May that DeTrani had any such plans:

QUESTION: Is there any discussion of using the New York channel? It hasn’t been used since December; is that right?

MR. CASEY: Well, I mean, the New York channel obviously exists and it remains open and we’ll use it when we deem it appropriate, as we have in the past, but it’s not a negotiating channel, it’s not a replacement or substitute for the six-party talks. And I did check on this and I know that Ambassador De Trani doesn’t have any plans at the present time to go to New York or to engage in the New York channel at this point.

Chris Nelson, as usual, had the best nugget in advance, noting that DeTrani had “lamented [during a the Center for Strategic and International Studies/Chosun Ilbo Seminar] that the DPRK has not taken advantage of the ‘New York’ meeting channel, via the United Nations, since December.” Although “he was not authorized to conduct any actual ‘negotiation’ via that channel,” DeTrani suggested that “discussions of issues already on the table could take place.”

I am sure Chris will have more insight on this tonight, but I don’t see any reason to assume this contact will prove more fruitful than the December effort—as Pyongyang’s rebuff to Seoul suggests.

Note: One can apparantly spell DeTrani as many ways as Qaddafi. I am going with the White House nomination spelling.


  1. EARL (History)

    And what a creepy channel it is…all those infomercials for the Little Pygmy Bolton System, perhaps that might be a good aim-point for the first Who Per Dong missile system test….