North Korea has been quietly trying to arrange talks with Republican-linked analysts in Washington in an apparent attempt to figure out the mind of US President Donald Trump.
An investigation by the Washington Post has revealed that several high-profile former officials and analysts have been approached by Pyongyang officials trying to make sense of Mr Trump’s unconventional messages to Kim Jong-un’s regime.
“They’re on a new binge of reaching out to American scholars and ex-officials,” said Bruce Klinger, a former CIA analyst who is now the most senior expert on North Korea at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank which has supplied analysts to the Trump administration.
North Korea earlier invited Mr Klinger to Pyongyang for meetings but he declined. “While such meetings are useful, if the regime wants to send a clear message, it should reach out directly to the US government,” he told the newspaper.
North Korean intermediaries also reached out to Douglas Paal, formerly an Asia expert on the National Security Council, and now based at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
They wanted Mr Paal to arrange talks between North Korean officials and American experts with Republican ties in a neutral location like Switzerland. He also declined.
Pyongyang’s outreach began before the current escalation of name-calling and threats between the two nations, which analysts warn could lead to potentially disastrous misunderstandings.
There has been no suggestion that North Korea sees such dialogue as a precursor to negotiations about its nuclear and weapons programme, or that it is softening on the question of denuclearisation.
Instead, officials have indicated that the regime is seeking recognition as a nuclear state.
Washington has made it clear that it is not interested in talking right now, opting to increase pressure on North Korea though increased sanctions and the threat of military action.
President Trump on Tuesday warned that the US was “fully prepared” to use “devastating” military force against Kim’s regime, although stressed it was not a preferred option.
He encouraged the world to work together to end the North Korean nuclear programme as he introduced new sanctions on…