US envoy on NKorea exits as window for talks may be opening

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Announcing new sanctions on North Korea - as the White House did on Friday even as Ivanka Trump was arriving in South Korea to represent the United States at the Olympic closing ceremonies - was rather artful, turning the screws on the North while still embracing the South Korean leadership.

The top US diplomat assigned to set North Korean policy and interact with the Kim regime will resign on Friday, citing unspecified personal reasons.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson "has reluctantly accepted his decision and wished him ‎well", she added.

In his current post, which he assumed in October 2016, Yun served as the chief US delegate to long-stalled six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program and coordinated with Japan and South Korea on North Korea policy.

Joseph Yun (center) during his time as U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia.

"It will not happen", Mr Robert Wood said.

Last May, he met in Oslo with the head of the Americas division in North Korea's foreign ministry, Choe Son Hui, to arrange for Warmbier's release.

The North hasn't tested a nuclear device or ballistic missile for months.

Yun has been the US's point-man on North Korea in recent years, serving as special representative to the isolated country and deputy assistant secretary for Korea and Japan.

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Yun has been one of the few USA officials to set foot in North Korea amid a flurry of nuclear threats and missile tests.

South Korea's foreign minister has said Pyongyang's sixth nuclear test and 20 ballistic missile launches a year ago amount to a "blatant affront" to the United Nations' nuclear test ban treaty.

His departure comes amid glimmers of hope for a diplomatic opening between Pyongyang and Washington.

CBS quoted Yun as saying there were no policy differences "per se", but officials he has dealt with in South Korea told Reuters he had appeared increasingly frustrated with conflicting views within the administration on how to deal with the crisis.

But the White House has remained committed to its strategy of isolating the communist state, unveiling its largest sanctions package yet on Friday.

US Ambassador Robert Wood emphasized that Washington will continue to put maximum pressure on the North until it agrees to denuclearization talks. "Joe Yun is the only senior official left at State who has experience dealing with the complexities of North Korea policy".

The US Treasury Department also released a global shipping advisory with information about North Korea's deceptive shipping practices and warned about potential sanctions against those who enable the shipment of goods to or from North Korea. The former North Korean intelligence chief was thought to have organized attacks on South Korean territory and naval vessels.

"Our consistent message should be that it (North Korea) must make the right decision".