The United States quit having back channel dialogue with North Korea after the regime conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last month, a South Korean lawmaker quoted U.S. sources as saying.
Rep. Choung Byoung-gug of the minor opposition Bareun Party said the information was shared with him during one of his meetings with some 20 U.S. government officials, lawmakers and experts in Washington since Oct. 1.
“I got the impression that there were talks up until the sixth nuclear test, and then they stopped,” he said during a recent meeting with reporters. “They told me they think the circumstances have changed.”
North Korea tested what it claimed was a powerful hydrogen bomb on Sept. 3, heightening tensions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un then traded bellicose rhetoric that stoked fears of an armed clash on the Korean Peninsula.
But Rep. Chung Dong-young of the minor opposition People’s Party, who led a delegation of ruling and opposition party members, including Choung, said many of the Americans reassured them there would be no military action short of an attack from the North.
“Many people said the U.S. hasn’t the slightest interest in a war absent a provocation from the North,” he said.
“There was a unified message between the administration and Congress that the U.S. would defend South Korea in the event of an attack on Seoul. They also said that if the U.S. doesn’t take action in such a scenario, the international community will lose its confidence in the U.S. and questioned how Japan and other U.S. allies in Asia and Europe would view them.”
The Americans the delegation met with included Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), chairman of the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.