Published: Tue, May 29, 2018
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

Diplomacy heats up before summit, with trips by US, North Korean officials

Diplomacy heats up before summit, with trips by US, North Korean officials

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's dispatch of a top lieutenant to the United States suggests that preparations for a summit between him and President Donald Trump are in the final stages.

Significant differences, however, remain - especially over the USA and North Korean definition of "complete denuclearization".

The talks indicate that planning for the historic summit, initially scheduled for 12 June, is moving ahead after Mr Trump called it off last week in a letter to Kim Jong-un.

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

"I think the two leaders will sit down and they're going to have a great time, because really they have the same personality", said Howard on Sunday. Before he canceled the summit, Trump did not rule out an incremental approach that would provide incentives along the way to the North.

Kyodo News reported that Pyongyang is reluctant to "ship up to 20 warheads overseas at an early date as part of measures to achieve a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea".

It has also remained highly sceptical about North Korea's intentions, reminding the United States that the North has signed and reneged on multiple previous nuclear deals.

"Trump should've played hard to get himself and put more pressure on North Korea".

Before the Trump-Kim meeting, the US president also plans to hold face-to-face discussions with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Officials are discussing the substance of any summit agreement, focusing on the thorny issue of denuclearization, with a North Korean team led by Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui.

The son of North Korean refugees who fled to the South during the war, Moon forged his political career under progressive president Roh Moo-hyun, who led the country from 2003 to 2008.

Kim Chang-son (L), North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's de facto chief of staff, prepares to get into a auto as he leaves a hotel in Singapore on May 29, 2018.

North Korea has faced years of isolation and economic sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes since it conducted its first nuclear test in 2006.

He is widely believed to have masterminded the attack on a South Korean naval corvette, the Cheonan, in 2010, leading to the deaths of 46 sailors. It remains unclear whom Kim Yong Chol will meet in the United States.

A separate US advance team of 30 officials led by Joseph Hagin, the deputy White House chief of staff for operations, flew to Singapore Sunday to figure out logistics and security issue, along with how to handle press if the summit takes place.

"That [summit] will help, but I don't think that President Moon and Kim Jong-un can talk about the detailed technical issues that are vital".

It was widely expected that Kim would travel to the US to reciprocate recent visits by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The White House said a "pre-advance" team was travelling to Singapore to meet with North Koreans. It was a repeat of the opening ceremony, where Pence did not greet Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong.

But analysts believe North Korea will be unwilling to cede its nuclear deterrent unless it is given security guarantees that the United States won't try to topple the regime.

But North Korean state media subsequently reported on Kim's "fixed will" that a summit with Trump should go ahead.

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