US discussing exchanging liaison officers with North Korea

Posted at 7:42 AM, Feb 18, 2019

The US and North Korea are seriously considering exchanging liaison officers, a move that could begin the establishment of interest sections in each other's countries, two sources with knowledge of the discussions told CNN.

News of the discussions comes days ahead of President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's second summit, which is set to take place in Vietnam at the end of the month.

Trump and Kim met in Singapore last year, and both leaders there signed a joint statement that included commitments from each country "to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity."

This statement left the door open to some kind of re-establishment of formal relations if things were to go well, the sources said, adding that the current stalemate has left North Korea expecting some significant gesture on the part of the US.

The two high-level diplomatic sources said the first step forward could be the exchange of officers. On the US side, sources said there would be several liasion officers sent to set up office in North Korea, led by a senior foreign service officer who speaks Korean, if this plan were to move forward.

A similar agreement was made back in 1994, with the "Agreed Framework" leading to extensive negotiating over exchanging liaison offices in each country, beginning with up to seven officers in each. At the time, the US even went so far as to sign a lease for space in the German mission. North Korea also looked at possible sites in Washington, DC.

But by the end of the following year, North Korea canceled the whole plan, thought to be because of tensions after a US helicopter was shot down when it crossed over the Demilitarized Zone into North Korea, at the end of 1994.