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White House official had no contact with N. Koreans in S. Korea

All Headlines 01:02 February 27, 2018

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (Yonhap) -- A White House official in charge of Korea affairs did not meet with North Korean officials during her trip to South Korea, a spokesperson said Monday as interest mounts over whether the two sides will resume dialogue.

Allison Hooker, director for Korea on the National Security Council, was part of the U.S. delegation to the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. She was seen as a potential envoy to any talks the U.S. might have with North Korea on the sidelines of the ceremony Sunday.

"No," the NSC spokesperson told Yonhap when asked if Hooker had any contact with North Korean officials on the trip.

She returned to Washington earlier in the day on the same plane as President Donald Trump's daughter and adviser, Ivanka, who led the delegation, an informed source said.

Ivanka also had no interaction with North Korean delegates to the Games, the White House said Sunday.

Allison Hooker, director for Korea on the White House National Security Council, arrives at South Korea's presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, in Seoul on Feb. 23, 2018, to attend a dinner with President Moon Jae-in. (Yonhap)

The North's delegation included Kim Yong-chol, a senior ruling party official who was involved in negotiations with the U.S. over the release of two American detainees in 2014. Hooker was part of the U.S. negotiating team at the time.

Choe Kang-il, a senior North Korean diplomat handling U.S. affairs, is also a member of the eight-member delegation currently in South Korea.

Kim told South Korean President Moon Jae-in Sunday that Pyongyang has "ample intentions" to hold talks with Washington. He repeated the statement in a meeting with Moon's chief national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, Monday.

The U.S. responded with caution Sunday, saying it "will see" if the stated willingness for talks represents a commitment to denuclearize. Washington has been adamant that any dialogue with Pyongyang should be aimed at dismantling the regime's nuclear weapons program.

The NSC spokesperson said there is "nothing beyond yesterday's statement" regarding the North's repeated overtures.


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