‘You need to talk to the guys with the guns’: Report reveals perennial US-North Korea intel talks
The landmark 2018 summit between Washington and Pyongyang was prefaced by nearly a decade of bilateral intelligence negotiations, a report shows.
US and North Korean intelligence services communicated since 2009 through a “goon channel,” the Wall Street Journal reports on Tuesday, citing current and former US officials.
The channel would have initially been established by the Obama administration to negotiate the release of US detainees, and reportedly allowed the CIA to conduct two missions to Pyongyang in 2012.
However the channel then fell dormant until Mike Pompeo got into the saddle in 2017. The then-CIA chief is said to have reached various North Korean security heavyweights including Gen. Kim Yong Chol who the newspaper claims has become Pyongyang’s principal negotiator.
Top-ranked secret talks reportedly paved the way for the historic 2018 Trump-Kim summit in Singapore that launched the long-awaited denuclearisation process.
Daniel Russel, who worked for the State Department and the National Security Council under Obama’s tenure, told the newspaper that the intelligence talks proved to be the most viable.
“In countries like North Korea, the foreign ministry has limited influence, so you need to be able to speak to the guys with the guns,” Russel said.
The revelations spilled into public view as the nations prepare for a bilateral summit scheduled for late February, the second high profile meeting since Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un first met in June 2018 in Singapore.
US relations with North Korea have been particularly hostile since Trump was sworn in back in early 2017. In September 2017, North Korea claimed to have tested a mighty hydrogen bomb that can be loaded on to an intercontinental ballistic missile. Trump bounced back with a threat to “totally destroy” North Korea.
The Singapore summit in June 2018 had a great symbolic meaning but failed to provide a tangible roadmap for de-escalating the Korean crisis. Trump and Kim signed a vaguely-termed commitment to pursue a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
Following the meeting, Pyongyang did not test any missiles and dismantled one of the test sites calling for sanctions relief in return.
The Trump administration however continues to heap pressure on the country, lobbying for further UN sanctions against Kim’s regime. Pentagon lists North Korea as a primary missile threat outpacing Iran, Russia and China, according to US Missile Defense Review published on January, 17.
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