Reports: Top North Korea diplomat to meet with U.S. officials in Malaysia

SEOUL, Oct. 18 (UPI) — North Korea‘s top diplomat for U.S. affairs may be traveling to Malaysia to meet with U.S. officials, according to multiple Japanese press reports.

Han Song Ryol, who may have met with senior U.S. officials in Sweden in May, was seen at Beijing Capital International Airport, Japanese news service Kyodo News reported Tuesday.

Han ignored questions from a reporter representing Japanese television network NHK as he made his way to a vehicle that would take him to the North Korean embassy in Beijing.

Han is the director-general of the U.S. affairs department at North Korea’s foreign ministry.

According to a source who spoke to Kyodo on the condition of anonymity, there is a possibility the North Korean diplomat was heading to Malaysia for an informal dialogue with U.S. officials.

The source could not name the U.S. officials, the report stated, but it is likely Han was to meet with officials or North Korea experts from the United States in a dialogue to be conducted in strict confidentiality.

NHK’s source said it’s likely Han will tell the U.S. delegation that Pyongyang intends to continue on the path of nuclear weapons development.

The trip is taking place at a time when North Korea has shown no interest in ending its nuclear weapons and missile development program.

On Saturday, North Korea fired a midrange Musudan missile that ended in failure, according to U.S. officials. The failed test earned Pyongyang a strong condemnation from the United Nations Security Council on Monday.

Direct meetings with U.S. officials and other contacts have been rare since Pyongyang conducted two nuclear tests and 22 ballistic missile launches in 2016.

But in September a private U.S. delegation from the Richardson Center for Global Engagement visited North Korea to discuss recovering U.S. soldier remains and flood aid, according to The New York Times.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson heads the center.

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