Ambassador Joe Yun, the chief envoy of North Korea's Foreign Ministry, retires Friday. His departure threatens to undermine the Trump government's ambitions of using diplomacy to solve the North Korean nuclear threat.
Yun, 63, has been at the center of the government's policy toward North Korea since the first day. He has served in the State Department for more than 30 years, including as Ambassador to Malaysia.
Yun traveled to North Korea last year to retrieve Otto Warmbier, the American student who had been detained for over a year. Yun was in contact with North Korean officials to coordinate this journey. President Trump had approved the trip and was closely monitored by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The former ambassador said his decision to leave the government was a personal decision. "It's really my decision, time, I thought, was right, there is a little break in the activity and I thought it would be good to get out," Yun said. "They stopped nuclear and missile tests."
Yun said there were no political differences "per se" and noted that Tillerson was trying to persuade him to stay.
"We are sorry to see him retire, but our diplomatic efforts on North Korea will continue on the basis of our maximum DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) isolation campaign until it is ready to engage in credible talks to start over a demuclearized Korean peninsula, "said Heather Nauert, Spate Division Spokeswoman
Yun, who had hoped to use diplomacy to solve the North Nuclear Crisis crisis, is leaving formal talks before Washington and Pyongyang take place. The White House says it hopes that the pressure exerted by sanctions on North Korea will lead to a diplomatic path to resolve the stalemate ̵
"If the sanctions do not work, I have to go to the second phase, the second phase may be very difficult, it can be very, very unlucky for the world, but hopefully the sanctions will work," Trump said during a press conference on Friday.
The State Department has no confirmed Deputy Secretary for the Asia-Pacific region or a US Ambassador to South Korea. With Yun's departure, the biggest fear is the end of diplomacy with Pyongyang.
"We need to do it right, we need to make sure there are talks that lead to denuclearization, we need a government approach," Yun told CBS News on Tuesday.
It is unclear who will pick up the baton from Yun. His successor still has to be determined.
State Department officials were also sometimes frustrated because the White House was getting closer to career diplomats like Yun. When North Koreans proposed a meeting with Vice President Pence on South Korea, a senior State Department official said that the meeting was not considered substantive, but stressed that it was hard to say what could have been achieved because it did not happen. 19659002] In an interview with "60 Minutes," Tillerson said he was ready to talk to North Korea.
"I do not send back a lot of messages because they have nothing to say at this point, I stop to tell you that you're ready to talk," Tillerson said, "We get messages from them and I think it will be very clear how we want to have this first conversation. "
During the weekend, North Korea showed in a meeting with the South Koreans that they are ready for talks with the US But the white one House seemed to decline the offer.
"As President Trump said, there is a better way for North Korea to decide on denuclearization. We will see if Pyongyang's message that it is prepared to conduct talks marks the first steps in the path to denuclearization. In the meantime, the US and the world must continue to make it clear that North Korea's nuclear and missile programs are a dead end, "White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
On Monday, Mr. Trump stated Pyongyang's willingness to talk but did not say that the US would accept the offer.
"They want to talk. We only want to talk in the right conditions. "We're going to see what happens, but something has to be done."
Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Steve Goldstein, says it's not right there The diplomatic approaches between the White House and the Foreign Ministry in North Korea differ. "The secretary and the White House are in step with what to do," he said. "The news broadcast was solid."