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U.S. envoys secretly visited Pyongyang

AFP-JIJI

U.S. officials made two secret visits to North Korea last year in an effort to improve relations after North Korea leader Kim Jong Un assumed power, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

Citing unnamed former U.S. officials familiar with the trips, the newspaper said the visits in April and August were aimed at encouraging the new leadership in Pyongyang to moderate its foreign policy.

The April trip was led by Joseph DeTrani, who at the time headed the National Counterproliferation Center in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the report said.

It was unclear who led the August trip, the paper noted.

DeTrani left the government last year and now heads the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, an industry group, the newspaper noted.

DeTrani said he and other U.S. experts initially saw signs that Kim Jong Un might behave less rigidly than his father, including putting moderate figures in key government positions.

Without confirming the 2012 trips, he added that it “makes eminent sense” for the United States to conduct talks with North Korean officials after Kim Jong Il’s death, the paper noted.