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USA officials meet with North Koreans despite uncertainty surrounding Trump-Kim summit

01 June 2018

North Korean general Kim Yong-chol is reportedly heading to Washington DC via Beijing as part of the preparations for a summit between North Korea and the United States to be held in Singapore in June.

USA officials said the North Korea delegation would come to Washington to meet Trump and deliver the message on Friday, one week after Trump had abruptly called off preparations for the planned June 12 summit in a sharply-worded letter of his own.

Trump's aides will soon assess whether Kim Jong Un is willing to take serious steps before making a final decision on whether to go ahead with the summit, the USA official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Trump confirmed in a tweet Tuesday that senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol is coming to NY.

Trump thinks "ongoing discussions are going very well", White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

The statement's reference to ballistic missiles echoes comments made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.

He appeared at the Beijing airport Wednesday, and South Korean-based Yonhap News agency cited diplomatic sources as saying that Kim was on an Air China flight to NY that departed later in the day.

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INSKEEP: And just in 10 or 15 seconds - Kim Yong Chol, in your view, it sounds like, is senior enough, important enough that it would make sense for him to come visit President Trump to take that extra step.

"It's a good thing to have him onboard", said a former senior South Korean official who worked with Sung Kim in past.

A day later, Trump, who frequently exchanged insults with Kim Jong Un before they began talking about a summit, said he had reconsidered and officials from both countries were meeting to work out details. North Korea has rejected unilateral disarmament and called for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula without defining what that entails.

"We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea", Trump wrote on Twitter.

HEATHER NAUERT: Since the president's May 24 letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the North Koreans have been engaging with the United States. Both are former spy chiefs and met in Pyongyang during the secretary of state's visits there in April and again this month. And, on Sunday, the president said an American delegation was meeting with North Korean officials in preparation for the meeting.

But Kim, through two summits with Chinese President Xi Jinping in March and May, has called for a phased and synchronised process in which every action he takes is met with a reciprocal reward from the United States.

Sung Kim, a former US ambassador to South Korea and former nuclear negotiator with the North, has been called in from his post as envoy to the Philippines to lead the preparations, according to a person familiar with the arrangements.

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The talks are expected to continue this week.

Keep in mind that administration surrogates often don't know what is going on, the president is not a reliable indicator of what his own administration is up to, and South Korea's optimistic spin on North Korea's intentions can depart substantially from Pyongyang's actual position.

"But, as the president has said", she added, "if it doesn't happen June 12 it could happen thereafter".

On the nuclear question, the analysis suggests that a more realistic immediate objective would be convincing Kim to walk back recent progress on the country's nuclear weapons program, the officials said. Any visit to the United States would indicate a waiver was granted.

North Korea defends its nuclear and missile programs as a deterrent against what it sees as USA aggression.

Despite the North's apparent eagerness for a summit with Trump, there are lingering doubts about whether Kim Jong Un will fully relinquish his nuclear weapons, which he may see as his only guarantee of survival.

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USA officials meet with North Koreans despite uncertainty surrounding Trump-Kim summit