U.S. gov’t to shift lineup for Korea
Sydney Seiler, in charge of Korea policy at the White House’s National Security Council, is expected to be the prime candidate for chief nuclear envoy, according to multiple diplomatic sources in Washington and Seoul.
The position has been vacant for more than a year since Clifford Hart, the former special representative for the six-party talks, was appointed as the consul general of Hong Kong and Macao in June 2013.
The Obama administration is reportedly looking to reshuffle its North Korea policy chiefs in the latter half of this year.
Because the United States and North Korea do not entertain formal diplomatic relations, Seiler’s appointment as the new six-party top envoy is expected to reinforce the communication line between Washington and Pyongyang through unofficial diplomatic channels.
The “New York channel” of communication with the North also includes envoys to the United Nations, which has its headquarters in New York.
The six-party talks, which include the two Koreas, China, the United States, Russia and Japan, have been halted since late 2008 when Pyongyang walked away from denuclearization negotiations.
Seiler, a veteran Central Intelligence Agency analyst, received his master’s degree in Korean studies from Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies and is fluent in Korean.
He has spent nearly 30 years analyzing North Korea for the U.S. government and is the author of “Kim Il-Song 1941-1948: The Creation of a Legend, the Building of a Regime” (1994).
“[He] is a Korea expert who has had exchanges with a wide breadth of Koreans,” a high-level diplomat acquainted with Seiler said.
Sung Kim, the current U.S. ambassador to Korea, is also expected to replace Glyn Davies as the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy this fall, with Mark Lippert, the chief of staff to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, named as the top U.S. envoy to Seoul.
Experts point to Allison Hooker, an East Asia and Pacific affairs analyst with the U.S. State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research, who specializes in North Korean nuclear issues, to replace Seiler as President Obama’s policy adviser on North Korea.
Analysts expect the shake-up of the Obama administration’s Korea policy-makers to bring about momentum in the long-stalled six-party talks.
But other Washington and Seoul sources indicate such anticipation may still be premature.
“In regard to North Korea, Washington’s tactic of strategic patience, the trend of ‘not doing anything,’ has not changed,” said a high-level diplomat here who has dealt with the six-party talks.
Seiler has not appeared to deviate from this stance in his recent remarks on the North.
BY CHUN SU-JIN, SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]