Washington prepares to bring North Koreans to US for talks


WASHINGTON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Preparations are under way to bring senior North Korean officials to the United States for talks with former U.S. officials, the first such meeting in more than five years, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.

The talks would be the clearest indication yet that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wants to communicate with the new Trump administration.

Planning for the "Track 1.5 talks" is still in a preparatory stage, the Post reported, citing multiple people with knowledge of the arrangements.

That name, reflecting planned contact between former U.S. officials and current North Korean ones, is a reference to what are known as "Track 2" talks involving former officials on both sides.

The U.S. State Department has not yet approved the North Koreans' visas for the talks, the newspaper said.

A State Department spokesman commented to Reuters only that Track 2 meetings "routinely" take place on a variety of topics around the world and occur independent of the U.S. government.

A White House official commented that the U.S. government had no plans to meet with North Korea.

North Korea's testing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile drew international condemnation last week. President Donald Trump told a news conference after the test: Obviously North Korea is a big, big problem and we will deal with that very strongly." (Reporting by Jeff Mason, Idrees Ali and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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United Nations sanctions against North Korea
Members of the UN Security Council vote during a United Nations Security Council meeting on sanctions against North Korea March 2, 2016 at the United Nations in New York. / AFP / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the UN Security Council vote during a United Nations Security Council meeting on sanctions against North Korea March 2, 2016 at the United Nations in New York. / AFP / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power (L) speaks to Japan's Ambassador to the UN Motohide Yoshikawa before a vote during a United Nations Security Council meeting on sanctions against North Korea March 2, 2016 at the United Nations in New York. / AFP / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Japan's Ambassador to the UN Motohide Yoshikawa (R) speaks with France's Ambassador to the UN François Delattre before a vote during a United Nations Security Council meeting on sanctions against North Korea March 2, 2016 at the United Nations in New York. / AFP / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korea's delegation to the UN lead by Ambassador Oh Joon (R) talkS before a vote during a United Nations Security Council meeting on sanctions against North Korea March 2, 2016 at the United Nations in New York. / AFP / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power speaks to members of the UN Security Council after a vote during a United Nations Security Council meeting on sanctions against North Korea March 2, 2016 at the United Nations in New York. / AFP / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
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