US envoy to North Korea quits

Source:Reuters Published: 2018/2/28 22:42:31

32-year veteran retires from key role at critical juncture

The US special envoy for North Korea plans to retire on Friday, the State Department said just hours after President Donald Trump again rejected talks to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis unless conditions are met.

South Korean-born Joseph Yun, a strong advocate for engagement with Pyongyang, has led US contact with North Korea, quietly pursuing direct diplomacy since taking his post under former president Barack Obama in 2016.

Yun's departure leaves the State Department without a point person for North Korea policy at a time Pyongyang has signaled it may be willing to talk to the US after a period of diplomatic contacts with South Korea during the Winter Olympic Games.

The special envoy's authority to engage with North Korea appeared to be undercut by a tug-of-war between the White House and State Department over North Korea policy under Trump.

"He was skeptical and wary of the White House's hard-line approach toward North Korea from the beginning," a senior South Korean official told Reuters, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Another senior South Korean official said Yun had "run out of steam" amid tension between the White House, which has been carrying out its "maximum pressure" campaign against North Korea, and the State Department, which supported Seoul's efforts to re-engage Pyongyang.

While his tenure was praised publicly by the State Department, one senior administration official said Yun would not be missed because he contradicted Trump's policies, while at a daily press briefing White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders brushed off questions about the impact of Yun's departure.

Yun, a 32-year foreign service veteran, told US media his retirement was a personal decision and that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had tried to persuade him to stay.

"It is really my decision. The time, I thought, was right," he told CBS News. "There is a bit of a lull in activity and I thought it would be a good [time] to get out."


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