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U.S. may dump high-level dialogue channel with N.K.

Posted February. 26, 2001 14:33,   


The U.S. State Department posts of special envoy for the Korean peninsula and coordinator for North Korea policy, which had symbolized the positive outreach toward Pyongyang of the Democratic administration of President Bill Clinton, might be abolished under the Republican government of President George W. Bush, it was reported Sunday.

Doing away with the two offices, which led trilateral cooperation efforts between Seoul, the United States and Japan in dealing with North Korea and high-level negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, would be Washington`s first concrete step toward fashioning a new framework for its North Korea policy.

According to a highly placed Seoul government official, Washington is close to deciding to eliminate the two positions and James Kelley, who was appointed assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs last week, already informally told the Korean government of the imminent change.

Former North Korea policy coordinator Wendy Sherman left the State Department upon the inauguration of President Bush and special envoy Charles Kartman is soon to shift to another office, the official said. He added that the abolition of the two posts would be formally announced as soon as Washington has completed an overall review of its policy on the Korean peninsula.

Kelley reportedly indicated to several Seoul government officials and his Korean friends that former president Clinton`s creation of the two positions was a sign that he viewed the Korean question as a ``matter of special concern.`` The new administration intends to address the Korean question within the general context of its East Asia policy, he said.

South Korean officials responded favorably to prospects that Washington would change its stance, saying it would allow the two Koreas greater leeway in resolving inter-Korean issues. However, they expressed misgivings that the disappearance of the high-level dialogue channel between the United States and North Korea might temporarily stall efforts to improve ties.