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North Korea summit: US officials arrive in North Korea to discuss renewed talks between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump

Sunday - 27/05/2018 15:26
AFTER Donald Trump abruptly cancelled a planned meeting with Kim Jong-un, US officials have done an about face, reportedly crossing into North Korea for a resumption of talks.

US officials have crossed into North Korea to hold talks on preparations for a possible summit, a US newspaper reports, as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his commitment to meet with US President Donald Trump.

Both Pyongyang and Washington are pressing ahead with plans for a meeting between the two leaders after Mr Trump pulled out of the scheduled June 12 summit on Thursday, only to reconsider the decision the next day.

The Washington Post, citing a person familiar with the arrangements, said Sung Kim, a former US ambassador to South Korea and former nuclear negotiator with the North, was leading the preparations on the US side.

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in hugs Kim Jong-un after a meeting in Panmunjom. Picture: AFP/Dong-A Ilbo
South Korea's President Moon Jae-in hugs Kim Jong-un after a meeting in Panmunjom. Picture: AFP/Dong-A IlboSource:AFP

He crossed into North Korean territory with Allison Hooker, the Korea expert on the White House National Security Council. They met with Choe Son-hui, the North Korean vice foreign minister, the Post said. Pentagon official Randall Schriver is also in Seoul currently, the Post said.

The meetings are expected to continue on Monday and Tuesday and are focused on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, it said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said earlier that he and North Korea’s Kim agreed at a surprise meeting on Saturday that the possible North Korea-US summit must be held, Moon told a news conference in Seoul.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. Picture: AFP
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. Picture: AFPSource:AFP
 
Kim Jong-un believes a summit with US President Donald Trump will be a landmark opportunity to end decades of confrontation. Picture: AFP
Kim Jong-un believes a summit with US President Donald Trump will be a landmark opportunity to end decades of confrontation. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

The Korean leaders’ second summit in a month saw bear hugs and broad smiles, but their quickly arranged meeting Saturday appears to highlight a sense of urgency on both sides of the world’s most heavily armed border.

Kim reaffirmed his commitment to “complete” denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and to a planned meeting with Mr Trump, Moon told a news conference in Seoul.

“Chairman Kim and I have agreed that the June 12 summit should be held successfully, and that our quest for the Korean peninsula’s denuclearisation and a perpetual peace regime should not be halted,” Moon said.

Activists gather in front of the U.S. embassy to demand peace for the Korean peninsula after the cancellation of the U.S. and North Korea summit. Picture: Getty
Activists gather in front of the U.S. embassy to demand peace for the Korean peninsula after the cancellation of the U.S. and North Korea summit. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images

The meeting was the latest dramatic turn in a week of diplomatic ups and downs surrounding the prospects for an unprecedented summit between the US and North Korea, and the strongest sign yet that the leaders of the two Koreas are trying to keep the on-again off-again meeting on track.

While maintaining that Kim is committed to denuclearisation, Moon acknowledged Pyongyang and Washington may have differing expectations of what that means and he urged both sides to hold working-level talks to resolve their differences.

A statement from North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said Kim expressed “his fixed will” on the possibility of meeting Mr Trump as previously planned.

Mr Trump said on Saturday he was still looking at a June 12 date for a summit in Singapore and that talks were progressing very well.

“We’re doing very well in terms of the summit with North Korea,” Mr Trump said at the White House. “It’s moving along very nicely. So we’re looking at June 12th in Singapore. That hasn’t changed. So, we’ll see what happens.”

People watch a TV news program showing an image of North Korea’s latest test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in Seoul. Picture: AP
People watch a TV news program showing an image of North Korea’s latest test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in Seoul. Picture: APSource:AP

‘FIRM RESOLVE’

The Koreas’ talks, which Moon said Kim requested, capped a whirlwind 24 hours of diplomatic back-end-forth. They allowed Moon to push for a US-North Korean summit that he sees as the best way to ease animosity that had some fearing a war last year.

Kim may see the sit-down with Mr Trump as necessary to easing pressure from crushing sanctions and to winning security assurances in a region surrounded by enemies.

Moon told reporters overnight that Kim “again made clear his commitment to a complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” and that he told the South Korean leader he’s willing to co-operate to end confrontation and work toward peace for the sake of the successful North Korea-US summit.

Moon said he told Kim that Mr Trump has a “firm resolve” to end hostile relations with North Korea and initiate economic co-operation if Kim implements “complete denuclearisation.”

Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in met again over the weekend. Picture: AP
Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in met again over the weekend. Picture: APSource:AP

“What Kim is unclear about is that he has concerns about whether his country can surely trust the United States over its promise to end hostile relations (with North Korea) and provide a security guarantee if they do denuclearisation,” Moon said.

“During the South Korea-US summit, President Trump said the US is willing to clearly put an end to hostile relations (between the US. and North Korea) and help (the North) achieve economic prosperity if North Korea conducts denuclearisation,” he said.

Moon said North Korea and the United States will soon start working-level talks to prepare for the Kim-Trump summit. He said he expects the talks to go smoothly because Pyongyang and Washington both know what they want from each other.

Kim, in a telling line from a dispatch issued by the North’s state-run news service earlier on Sunday, “expressed his fixed will on the historic (North Korea)-US summit talks.”

During Saturday’s inter-Korean summit, the Korean leaders agreed to “positively co-operate with each other as ever to improve (North Korea)-US relations and establish (a) mechanism for permanent and durable peace.”

They agreed to have their top officials meet again on June 1.

South Korea was caught off guard by Mr Trump’s abrupt cancellation of his summit with Kim, with the US president citing hostility in recent North Korean comments.

Moon said Mr Trump’s decision left him “perplexed” and was “very regrettable.” He urged Washington and Pyongyang to resolve their differences through “more direct and closer dialogue between their leaders”.

This weekend’s summit marked the fourth meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas since they were divided at the end of the World War II in 1945.

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