Trump to nominate envoy for North Korea to United Nations job

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump plans to nominate the State Department’s deputy special representative for North Korea to a post at the United Nations, the White House said on Tuesday.

Alex Wong has been nominated to be the alternate U.S. representative for special political affairs at the world body with the rank of ambassador, a White House statement said.

The move follows a report suggesting that Trump, who held a series of unprecedented but largely fruitless summits with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un aimed at persuading Kim to give up his nuclear weapons, could be losing interest in the efforts.

CNN on Monday quoted two sources familiar with the matter as saying that Trump, frustrated at the lack of progress, had told top foreign policy advisers he does not want another summit with Kim before the U.S. presidential election in November.

Talks between the two sides have stalled since last year over an inability to reconcile North Korea’s demands for relief from punishing sanctions and other concessions and U.S. demands for North Korea to denuclearize.

The senior U.S. envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, took over the job of deputy secretary of state in December.

While North Korea has not tested a nuclear bomb or long-range missile since 2017, a confidential U.N. report seen by Reuters on Monday said it continued to enhance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs last year in breach of U.N. sanctions.

North Korea did not act on a threat to present the United States with a “Christmas surprise” that some feared could involve a return to testing, but Kim has warned that the world would soon see a “new strategic weapon.”

On Tuesday, Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank said satellite imagery of North Korea’s main nuclear site at Yongbyon taken on Feb. 10 showed three specialized railcars that have been associated with the movement of radioactive material in the past.

It said it was unclear what type of material was being transported, but the relatively small size and number of casks on the railcars suggested outbound shipment of small quantities of irradiated liquid or solid waste, contaminated equipment, or movement of fissile material to facilities outside Yongbyon. The report suggested the activity could also be a carefully calibrated move by North Korea to maneuver current international diplomatic tensions.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Leslie Adler