As GuamDiary has noted, the New York based Korea Society is the carrot of US diplomacy toward dealing with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [DPRK aka North Korea]. It is staffed by vetted CIA, former ambassadors, military, and senior State Department types.
The Society has [co]sponsored university programmes which have brought North Koreans for a brief period of study. Its senior vice presidents and presidents have eased the way for investment bankers, industrialists, business leaders,and the like, to visit North Korea. It had a ready and helpful hand in the visit of the New York Philharmonic in 2008. It has frequent meetings with members of the DRPK permanent mission in New York, and acts as a go between visiting North Koreans and American power brokers such as Kissinger.
The Society has weathered the fair and bad weather of US foreign policy towards Pyongyang.
Now something new is happening at the Korea Society. In previous incarnations, its former presidents have come directly out of high ranking posts in the American universe of diplomacy and spooks. As of 1 May, the new president, with a strong background in Korean affairs, is former ambassador Mark C. Minton, with a 32 year career as a senior foreign officer.
Here, however, is the new twist in his appointment: until 2009, he was US ambassador to Mongolia. Months before the Society appointed Stephen Noerpe, a Korean expert with strong ties to Mongolia, as a senior vice president.
Not only that, in Februrary 2010, Korea Society hosted a breakfast meeting with Damdan Tsogbaatar, state secretary of the ministry of foreign affairs and trade.
He spoke of the ties that bind: facilitating peace on the Korean peninsula.
Mongolia has relatively good ties with the DPRK and ROK [Republic of Korea aka South Korea]. It is not a strain to see that in Mongolia's capital Ulan Bator, high ranking US officials and scholars, say, like Noerpe, have had contact with North Koreans.
Mongolia offers a good cover for such 'prises de contacte'. They remain out of the public eye, and on the lee side of any storm arising in Washington, condemning any such moves.
So GuamDiary asks with Minton and Noerpe, is this a hint that the Obama administration, which remains strong in bursts and fits of threats against the DPRK [see, Mr. Obama's new nuclear strategy], is playing a different tune in channels to Kim Jong il?
Mongolia is more neutral ground for a change in tone and tactics, since it is not Beijing, and we stress again, away from the klieg lights of journalists and North Korea watchers. Ulan Bator is a sea of tranquillity in the tempest of US North Korea relations. It is much better suited to the DPRK's temperment: Mongolia is a small country with no axe to grind, and has maintained through thick and thin relations with Pyongyang.
GuamDiary will keep an alert eye on how the appointment of two 'Mongolian' experts in key posts at the Korea Society develop. At present, it looks as though US diplomacy is taking a different tack in trying to bring the DPRK back to six party talks in Beijing. Saying this, Ulan Bator offers a more serene climate to approach such matters as an end to the Korean war and other outstanding and vital issues in US DPRK relations for the last 60 years.
A work about South Korea. It is not the least bit unawares of the attractiveness of Mongolia. For it, too, offers Seoul quiet corners to meeting Koreans from the north.