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(2nd LD) Trump plans to name No. 2 N.K. envoy as representative to U.N.

All News 08:15 February 12, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with analyst's comments, other details in last 3 paras)
By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump plans to nominate the No. 2 U.S. envoy for North Korea as a representative to the United Nations, the White House said Tuesday.

Alex Wong, currently the deputy U.S. special representative for North Korea, has been tapped to serve as the U.S. alternative representative for special political affairs at the global body, with the rank of ambassador, the White House said in a press release.

The planned nomination adds to uncertainty about the future of denuclearization negotiations between the United States and North Korea, which have stalled since an unfruitful summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in February 2019.

Alex Wong, U.S. deputy special representative for North Korea, arrives at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Feb. 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

CNN reported Monday that Trump has told his advisers he does not want another summit with Kim before the U.S. presidential election in November.

Wong has effectively led the State Department's efforts with North Korea since Stephen Biegun, the top U.S. envoy for Pyongyang, took over as deputy secretary of state in December.

This week, Wong was in Seoul to meet with South Korean officials and "discuss continued U.S.-(South Korea) coordination on achieving our shared goals of complete denuclearization and bringing lasting peace to the Korean Peninsula," a State Department spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency earlier.

On Monday he also led a "working group" meeting, during which the South Koreans are known to have briefed the U.S. side on plans to allow individual tourism to North Korea, an initiative pushed by President Moon Jae-in as a way to foster inter-Korean cooperation and facilitate the resumption of nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

The U.N. position requires Senate confirmation.

"It typically takes at least two months for the Senate confirmation process, so I don't think there will be an immediate impact on (Wong's work)," a diplomatic source in Washington told Yonhap.

If confirmed, Wong will further hollow out the State Department team working on North Korea. Mark Lambert, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea, was recently reported to be moving to the U.N. as a special envoy for multilateral integrity.

"It does for sure signal one thing, that for now, Team Trump is giving up on North Korea in the short-term," Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean studies at the Center for the National Interest, told Yonhap. "The Trump administration collectively cares about only one thing right now: making sure the Trump administration secures a second term. Nothing more, nothing less."

And with Pyongyang grappling to contain the spread of the new coronavirus from China, "Both sides have little motivation to talk or do anything at least for the next few months," Kazianis added.


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