•US officials in North Korea to prepare for summit
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is committed to “complete” denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and to a landmark summit with United States President Donald Trump, South Korea’s leader said yesterday, as Trump announced that plans for the meeting are moving along “very nicely”.
Already, US officials crossed into North Korea yesterday to hold talks on preparations for the possibility of a summit, a US newspaper reported. 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.
The American diplomat crossed into North Korean territory with Allison Hooker, the Korea expert on the White House National Security Council, as well as a Defense Department official, the Post said. They met with Choe Son Hui, the North Korean vice foreign minister, the Post said.
The latest conciliatory declarations capped a turbulent few days of diplomatic brinkmanship that had sent tensions soaring. Trump rattled a sabre on Thursday by cancelling the planned June 12 meeting with Kim in Singapore, citing “open hostility” from Pyongyang. But within 24 hours he reversed course, saying it could still go ahead after productive talks were held with North Korean officials.
“It’s moving along very nicely,” Trump told reporters when asked for an update. “We’re looking at June 12 in Singapore. That hasn’t changed.” Trump’s unpredictability sparked a surprise meeting at the weekend between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, only the fourth time leaders from the two countries have ever met as they scrambled to get the talks back on track.
Pictures showed them shaking hands and embracing on the North Korean side of the Demilitarised Zone separating the two nations. Moon said Kim reached out to him to arrange the hasty meeting “without any formality”, a stunning development given that the Koreas only reopened a defunct hotline between the two nations last month.
The North Korean leader described the Singapore summit as a landmark opportunity to end decades of confrontation. “He… expressed his intention to put an end to the history of war and confrontation through the success of the North-US summit and to cooperate for peace and prosperity,” Moon told reporters on Sunday.
Moon added that Kim reaffirmed his commitment to “complete denuclearisation” but was uncertain “whether he could trust that the US would end its hostile policy and guarantee the security of his regime” if he gave up those weapons.
Pyongyang’s state-run KCNA news agency said Kim “expressed his fixed will” to meet Trump, adding South and North Korea would hold another round of “high-level” talks on June 1.