Seoul/Washington: The US State Department’s special representative for North Korea policy, Joseph Yun, plans to retire on Friday, just as signs are emerging that Pyongyang may be willing to talk with Washington.
The South Korean-born Yun has led the US outreach to North Korea, quietly pursuing direct diplomacy, since taking his post under former US President Barack Obama in 2016.
But his authority to negotiate with North Korea appeared to be undercut by the tug-of-war between the White House and State Department over the direction of North Korea policy under President Donald Trump.
Yun, a 32-year foreign service veteran, travelled to North Korea last June to help secure the release of comatose American student Otto Warmbier, whose detention and subsequent death further soured relations between Washington and Pyongyang.
His departure comes amid glimmers of hope for a diplomatic opening between Pyongyang and Washington.
In the latest attempt to defuse the crisis over North Korea’s weapons programme, South Korea urged Washington and Pyongyang to give ground to allow for talks, and US President Donald Trump on Friday reiterated he would negotiate with North Korea, but only under the right conditions.