Top US diplomat for North Korea leaving State Department

Posted on: February 27th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The U.S.’s top diplomat for North Korea is retiring just as the prospect of talks with North Korea seemed possible.

Ambassador Joseph Yun, the special representative for North Korea Policy, is retiring this week after more than 30 years in the Foreign Service.

Yun is yet another member of the Senior Foreign Service who is leaving while the department is still under a hiring freeze and many top roles have not been filled.

There has been growing frustration among the diplomatic ranks over the Trump administration’s handling of foreign policy and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s “redesign” plan of the department. Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Yun was retiring for “personal reasons and the Secretary has reluctantly accepted his decision and wished him well.”

“We are sorry to see him retire, but our diplomatic efforts regarding North Korea will continue based on our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the DPRK until it agrees to begin credible talks toward a denuclearized Korean peninsula,” the statement added.

Yun has been pivotal in the on-again, off-again back channel talks with North Korea in recent years. The North has expressed a willingness to engage with the U.S., according to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office.

Earlier this year the State Department’s third-highest ranking official, Tom Shannon, the under secretary of state for political affairs, announced that he was retiring. Of the five other under secretary roles, only one is filled by a Trump administration nominee, and the remaining four are vacant, with two nominees awaiting confirmation.

Yun is known more recently for securing the release of college student Otto Warmbier last spring. After secret talks with high-level North Korean officials, Yun visited Pyongyang in June and brought Warmbier, who had spent months in a coma in North Korean custody, home.

Yun was also able to visit with the three other Americans held by North Korea — the last known time they were seen.
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