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Communication Channels Between the US and North Korea for Discussing US Soldier

by Andrew Wright
4 comments
communication channels

Despite the absence of diplomatic ties between the United States and North Korea, various methods are available for communication. On Wednesday, a US official revealed that the US government had made contact with North Korea to address the case of Pvt. Travis King, an American soldier who entered North Korea during a tour of the border area. The US is still awaiting a response from North Korea.

Let’s explore the different channels that both countries could potentially use to discuss Pvt. Travis King, marking the first instance of an American held in North Korea in almost five years.

  1. The Pink Phone at Panmunjom:
    One reliable method for the US to reach North Korea is through a light pink-colored touch-tone phone located at the US-led U.N. Command in Panmunjom, a Korean border village where King crossed into North Korea. This telephone line connects liaison officers from both sides, with offices only 40 meters (130 feet) apart. According to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, the Pentagon attempted to establish communication with the Korean People’s Army in North Korea through this channel, but there has been no response yet.

  2. New York Mission:
    The US also possesses various channels for sending messages to North Korea, including North Korea’s mission to the United Nations in New York. This mission serves as a back-channel negotiation option, acting as a substitute embassy since the two countries do not have embassies in each other’s capitals. In the past, this mission played a crucial role in facilitating the high-stakes summitry between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and former US President Donald Trump. While the idea of a US liaison office in Pyongyang was considered during their second summit in Vietnam, it was abandoned after the breakdown of diplomacy.

  3. Swedish Embassy:
    Sweden, which maintains relations with North Korea and has an embassy in Pyongyang, has offered consular services to US citizens, including those detained on charges of illegal entry or espionage acts. The State Department officials have reached out to Sweden regarding Pvt. Travis King’s case. However, complications may arise due to the fact that Swedish diplomats based in Pyongyang reportedly left the country in 2020 due to severe COVID-19 restrictions. Nonetheless, experts suggest that communication may still be possible through North Korea’s embassy in Sweden.

  4. Other Hotlines:
    The two Koreas have their own set of phone and fax channels to arrange meetings, facilitate border crossings, and prevent accidental military clashes. However, North Korea has been unresponsive to South Korea’s attempts to exchange messages through these channels since April, especially considering the heightened tensions surrounding its nuclear program. Communication could potentially occur through a hotline between the spy agencies of both Koreas, as it has been previously active when other lines of communication stalled. The South Korean Foreign Ministry stated on Thursday that they were in contact with Washington, but no further details were provided.

Prospects:
Experts suggest that North Korea will not respond to US outreach until they have completed their investigation of Pvt. Travis King, which is expected to take at least two weeks. After the investigation, a prolonged negotiation between the US State Department and the North Korean Foreign Ministry is anticipated. While North Korea may perceive King’s custody as leverage to obtain diplomatic concessions from the US, it would also be challenging for them to detain a low-ranking soldier without significant high-profile intelligence on the US for an extended period. Consequently, if King expresses his desire to return home, North Korea may seek to reach a deal with the US. In the past, North Korea released US civilian detainees following visits by high-profile Americans, such as former presidents, to Pyongyang. Similar steps may be required in King’s case.

Chun In-bum, a retired lieutenant general who commanded South Korea’s special forces, noted that King’s entry into North Korea is embarrassing for the US. This incident occurred on the same day that the US significantly enhanced its security commitment to South Korea, deploying a nuclear-armed submarine and conducting the inaugural meeting of a bilateral nuclear consultative body. In response, North Korea test-fired two missiles on Wednesday, effectively overshadowing the news of the submarine and consultative body.

In summary, despite the lack of diplomatic ties, the US and North Korea have established various channels, such as the pink phone at Panmunjom, New York Mission, Swedish Embassy, and other hotlines, to communicate and discuss the case of Pvt. Travis King. The outcome of these communications and negotiations remains to be seen as both sides navigate the complexities of the situation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about communication channels

What are the communication channels between the US and North Korea?

The communication channels between the US and North Korea include a pink phone located at the US-led U.N. Command in Panmunjom, the North Korea mission to the United Nations in New York, the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, and various hotlines between the two Koreas.

How does the pink phone work?

The pink phone is a touch-tone phone located at the U.S.-led U.N. Command in Panmunjom. It connects liaison officers from the US and North Korea, whose offices are only 40 meters apart. This phone serves as a direct line of communication between the two sides.

What is the role of the North Korea mission to the United Nations in New York?

The North Korea mission to the United Nations in New York serves as a back-channel negotiation option for the US and North Korea. It acts as a substitute embassy since the two countries do not have embassies in each other’s capitals. It has played a significant role in facilitating high-stakes summitry in the past.

How does the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang contribute to communication between the US and North Korea?

The Swedish embassy in Pyongyang has relations with North Korea and offers consular services for US citizens. It can potentially serve as a channel for communication between the US and North Korea, despite complications arising from the absence of Swedish diplomats in North Korea due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Are there any other hotlines or channels of communication between the US and North Korea?

Yes, the two Koreas have their own set of hotlines and communication channels to set up meetings, arrange border crossings, and prevent accidental military clashes. However, North Korea has been unresponsive to South Korean attempts to exchange messages through these channels since April.

What is the expected outcome of the communication between the US and North Korea regarding Pvt. Travis King?

It is anticipated that North Korea will not respond to US outreach until their investigation of Pvt. Travis King is completed, which may take at least two weeks. After the investigation, a prolonged negotiation between the US State Department and the North Korean Foreign Ministry is expected. The outcome and resolution of the case remain uncertain at this point.

How does Pvt. Travis King’s case impact US-North Korea relations?

Pvt. Travis King’s border crossing into North Korea is considered an embarrassment for the US. The incident occurred on the same day that the US took significant steps to enhance its security commitment to South Korea, leading to heightened tensions. The case could potentially impact diplomatic negotiations and actions between the US and North Korea.

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4 comments

CuriousCat July 21, 2023 - 3:44 am

So there are hotlines and phone calls involved here? Fascinating stuff! I wonder how they manage negotiations and if they’ll find a solution for Pvt. Travis King’s case.

Reply
Bookworm27 July 21, 2023 - 4:41 am

omg pink phone at Panmunjom? That’s kinda cute but serious biz! Gotta love the back-channels at NK’s UN mission, like a secret club. And Sweden’s embassy might be the way to go! Go diplomacy!

Reply
Reader123 July 21, 2023 - 7:14 am

communication channels btw US n NKorea – pink phone, NY mission, swedish embassy, hotlines, interesting! Wonder how they talk without diplo ties?

Reply
GrammarNinja July 21, 2023 - 9:16 am

Grammar alert! Watch out for starting sentences with a small letter. Also, don’t forget those punctuation marks! But still, great breakdown of communication channels and potential outcomes.

Reply

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