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U.S, North Korean officials met secretly in March

By Elise Labott, CNN
updated 6:57 AM EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nothing came of New York meeting days before North Korea unleashed threats
  • Source says meeting part of regular back channel exchanges
  • The Obama administration called for Pyongyang to avoid provocative actions
  • "New York channel" set up for U.S., North Korea to exchange information, messages

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Washington (CNN) -- U.S. and North Korean officials met secretly in New York in the days before North Korea's latest round of threats and provocations, although nothing came of the meeting, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The source described the meeting as part of regular back channel exchanges between the countries.

Clifford Hart, the U.S. envoy for six-party talks aimed at North Korean denuclearization, met with North Korea's deputy U.N. ambassador, Han Song-ryol, in mid March, according to the source.

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Hart repeated the Obama administration's call for North Korea to avoid provocative actions and urged a return to diplomacy, and Han promised to communicate the message to Pyongyang, the source said.

The meeting was held as part of the so-called "New York channel," a process used for communicating and passing messages between Washington and Pyongyang in the absence of normal relations.

In February, North Korea used the "New York channel" to warn the State Department about its third nuclear test.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, appearing on CNN's "The Situation Room," said in general terms that the United States has a "channel of communications with the North Koreans, and we utilize that channel."

The meeting was first reported by the Foreign Policy magazine blog, The Cable.

Timeline: North Korea's war of words escalates

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