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Nonproliferation conference ends without meeting between U.S., N.K. envoys

16:15 November 10, 2019

MOSCOW, Nov. 10 (Yonhap) -- A nuclear nonproliferation conference in Moscow has wrapped up without a separate meeting between a U.S. special envoy for North Korea and a North Korean foreign ministry official handling American affairs who attended the event.

U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea Mark Lambert and Jo Chol-su, director-general of the North American department at the North's foreign ministry, had gathered in the Russian capital for the 2019 Moscow Nonproliferation Conference, raising speculation over possible talks between the two on the margins of the conference.

But the three-day forum closed Saturday without such a meeting. Lambert and Jo just had a brief five-minute talk during a reception for the participants on Thursday.

Lee Do-hoon, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, attends the 2019 Moscow Nonproliferation Conference (MNC) in the Russian capital city on Nov. 8, 2019. (Yonhap)

Lee Do-hoon, South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator, was also present at the conference but did not hold talks with Jo other than an exchange of greetings.

The potential encounter between Lambert and Jo had drawn much attention as nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang remain in a stalemate after their last working-level talks in Sweden in early October ended without a breakthrough.

The nuclear nonproliferation conference, hosted by Russia's Center for Energy and Security Studies every two to three years, has served as a chance for the United States and North Korea to sound out each other's positions at times of high tension.

U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea Mark Lambert is seen at the 2019 Moscow Nonproliferation Conference (MNC) held in the Russian capital city on Nov. 8, 2019. (Yonhap)

According to participants at the event, Jo appeared to be trying to shun contacts with the U.S. or South Korean officials.

During a session at the conference on Friday, Jo urged the U.S. to make a forward-looking decision by the end of the year, saying that the window for dialogue is closing bit by bit every day.

Lambert and Lee were present at the session but did not show any immediate reaction to Jo's remarks.

The U.S. and South Korean envoys left Moscow on Saturday to return home. Jo was to leave Moscow the next day to return home via China.

Jo Chol-su, director-general of the North American department at North Korea's foreign ministry, attends the 2019 Moscow Nonproliferation Conference (MNC) in the Russian capital city on Nov. 8, 2019. (Yonhap)


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