Wow! Look who beat Trump to Singapore summit

Arturo Kim
May 29, 2018

Meetings between American and North Korean officials are underway simultaneously in Panmunjom and Singapore as the two nations strive to revive a June 12 summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Now, according to a statement from State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Sunday, a US delegation "is in ongoing talks with North Korean officials at Panmunjom", too.

Direct dialogue between the two leaders is crucial to resolving the nuclear issue, it added.

Sung Kim met with North Korea's Vice-Foreign minister Choe Son Hui, who said last week that Pyongyang was "reconsidering" the talks, the daily said. Analysts said the pressure from the top makes a meeting more likely. Such a hotline has recently been established between South Korea and North Korea.

Earlier this month, the president scrapped a meeting with Kim because of a harsh statement made by North Korea.

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Planning for the historic summit, initially scheduled for June 12, appears to be moving ahead after the United States president called it off last week.

"Kim's official counterpart is Pompeo but he may also push for meetings with (National Security Advisor John) Bolton and even Trump if possible", Chung told AFP.

In a tweet Sunday, President Trump said the USA delegation had arrived in North Korea to continue planning for the summit with Kim Jong Un. The second was held with no prior notice and only announced hours after it had concluded.

US and South Korean officials haven't confirmed the details of the pre-summit negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang at the border.

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On Sunday, current United States ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim led a team to the northern side of the "Unification House" along the DMZ for talks on North Korea's nuclear program.

The source said agreement to hold the talks was reached between Washington and Pyongyang "through a separate channel" from a surprise summit between Kim Jong-un and President Moon Jae-in on Saturday.

Following an unusually provocative 2017 in which Kim's engineers tested a purported thermonuclear warhead and three long-range missiles theoretically capable of striking mainland U.S. cities, the North Korean leader has engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activity in recent months.

Following an unusually provocative 2017 in which his engineers tested a purported thermonuclear warhead and three long-range missiles theoretically capable of striking mainland USA cities, Kim has engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activity in recent months.

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The North has previously used the term "denuclearization" to demand the United States pull out its 28,500 troops in South Korea and withdraw its so-called "nuclear umbrella" security commitment to South Korea and Japan.

As the rapprochement with the United States has picked up pace, Kim Yong Chol appears to have taken on a broader remit to deal with the Trump administration.

Those details were supposed to have been worked out two weeks ago, when Hagin traveled to Singapore to arrange details of the talks, but the North Korean delegation never arrived.

"It's a good thing to have him onboard", said a former senior South Korean official who worked with Sung Kim in past. "He didn't give in to frustration, he gave Kim a platform to say some things about denuclearization that will play well in the USA, and he again showed Trump the mesmerizing all-consuming media impact that a summit can have - something that's bound to appeal".

Washington wants North Korea to quickly give up all its nuclear weapons in a verifiable way in return for sanctions and economic relief.

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