On the morning of 4 April, North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. As news broke of this provocative incident, it was easy to miss a single tweet from the innards of the U.S. State Department. After all, world media was focused on this cryptic response from the Secretary of State:
“North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea,” Tillerson said. “We have no further comment.”
Yet, as Tillerson was issuing his “No comment” response, an uncelebrated foreign policy expert was en route to Moscow to talk with “Russian officials” about North Korea.
— US EAP Media Hub (@eAsiaMediaHub) April 4, 2017
Joseph Yun, born in South Korea and credited with expertise on EuroAsian affairs, is that policy wonk and his area of specialty is North Korea.
The tweet announcing his trip to Moscow was issued by a section within State called the Bureau for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (US EAP).
A fuller press release explained that the purpose of Yun’s Moscow visit was to “discuss cooperation on DPRK issues.” It also named the Russian official meeting with Yun: Igor Morgulov, the Russian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. Unnamed individuals from “academia” and Russian “think tanks” are included in the discussions.
Morgulov’s specialty area is also the Asia Pacific.
The missile launch by North Korea, the empty remarks by the Secretary of State and the meeting of a State Department underling with one of Russia’s most prominent officials to discuss North Korea is a mystery within a conundrum.
EAP is headed up by Susan Thornton, whose career in foreign service stretches back to 1991. Thornton is the Acting Assistant Secretary, a confirmation issued less than a month ago.