North Korea and US officials continue summit preparations

Despite differences on denuclearisation, Kim Jong-un and Trump look to Singapore talks

South Korean president Moon Jae-in and US president Donald Trump:  Mr Trump tweeted that he sees “brilliant potential” in North Korea. Photograph:  Saul Loeb/ AFP/Getty

South Korean president Moon Jae-in and US president Donald Trump: Mr Trump tweeted that he sees “brilliant potential” in North Korea. Photograph: Saul Loeb/ AFP/Getty

 

North Korean and US officials were continuing their preparations for a summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore, after the US president reconsidered his decision last week to cancel.

South Korean president Moon Jae-in said there could be more impromptu talks and summits with North Korea after he and Mr Kim held a surprise meeting on Saturday at the border village of Panmunjom, during which they agreed that the North Korea-US summit must be held.

“The most meaningful thing in the latest South-North Korea summit was the fact that we skipped complicated procedures and protocols and met casually as if holding an everyday meeting,” Mr Moon told a meeting with senior aides.

“I ask you to make necessary preparations in advance to make sure there will not be any gap in the line of military command while keeping in mind that similar meetings could be held again in the future,” he said.

Mr Trump last week cancelled the meeting with Mr Kim, scheduled for June 12th, citing the “tremendous anger and open hostility” displayed by the North Koreans, but subsequently he reconsidered.

Nuclear weapons

A senior North Korean official arrived in Beijing on Monday apparently en route to Singapore for pre-summit talks with the US.

The US and North Korea appear to have differing ideas about what constitutes denuclearisation. Washington demands the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible” dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. However, Pyongyang rejects unilateral disarmament and has never really clarified what it means by denuclearisation.

It is possible that the North wants some kind of security guarantees from the US in exchange for giving up its nuclear weapons, possibly including the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea.

On Sunday, US and North Korean officials met at the village of Panmunjom on the southern side of the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean peninsula.

Mr Trump tweeted on Sunday that the US team was in North Korea to make arrangements for the summit. “I truly believe North Korea has brilliant potential and will be a great economic and financial nation one day. Kim Jong-un agrees with me on this. It will happen!” he said.

Proposed timetable

A “pre-advance” team of US officials was also travelling to Singapore to meet North Koreans there, the White House said.

The American delegation to meet North Korea officials includes the former US ambassador to South Korea, Sung Kim.

North Korea said it would follow its own timetable to achieve a nuclear-free world and the demolition of the nuclear test ground in Punggye-ri last week was part of this.

“The DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] is advancing along the path taken by itself according to its timetable no matter whatever others may say and wherever wind may blow from in order to implement the decision of the Third Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Central Committee of the WPK,” a report in the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), said.