In spite of the fact that the members on the two sides are notable figures, keeping up secrecy won’t be an issue. There is tight security around the lodging where the eatery is found and the members in the discussions once in a while show up outside the building.
The Berlin meeting is only one case of the casual discoursed between the two nations that have been occurring for a considerable length of time.
Geneva, London and Kuala Lumpur have been host to these meetings in the past. The meetings are dubbed “Track 1.5” as it involves North Korean government officials, which makes it official or Track 1 from Pyongyang’s perspective; but only former officials or academics on the American side, making it Track 2 in the US.
In the past few months, the US and North Korea have increased their hostile rhetoric against each other. As the tensions rise on the Korean peninsula, so has the interest in the informal dialogue between the two countries.
Experts believe the backchannel discussions can serve as a stepping stone to official discussions on denuclearisation. As such, all eyes are on the next round of unofficial talks – scheduled to take place on the sidelines of a non-proliferation conference this week in Moscow.
The dialogues involve current North Korean government functionaries, but only former officials or academic experts on the American side.
Until recently, it was widely believed that North Korea did not have the ability to miniaturise a nuclear warhead in order to mount it on to a missile. But based on the latest media reports, quoting US intelligence officials, the country may have gained that capability in 2017.
“They were using moderate language to forestall the conversation,” says Paal of the North Koreans’ softened approach to reach American experts last month.
Like Paal, most former US officials involved in back channel dialogue with North Korea have been in the loop for a decade or two. In fact, one long-time participant, Joel Wit, now a senior fellow at the US-Korea Institute, says he doesn’t recall the first time he was involved in those discussions.
Dialogue insiders say it is important to keep the conversations bilateral, meaning no other countries are involved other than the US and North Korea.
They believe a streamlined approach to these meetings will foster an environment in which the participants can explore different ideas. They also recommend confidentiality for the same reasons.
“It’s important because people feel then they can just express what they’re thinking and brainstorm,” says Wit.
These backchannel discussions between Washington and Pyongyang will continue, it appears, despite a recent remark by a South Korean lawmaker claiming otherwise.