Sum­mit on my mind: US-NK talks back on

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - WORLD -

AF­TER a week of back­flip­ping and un­cer­tainty, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has con­firmed that his his­toric meet­ing with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is back on for June 12.

Speak­ing af­ter an Oval Of­fice meet­ing with toprank­ing North Korean of­fi­cial Kim Yong-chol, Mr Trump said it would be a mis­take not to pro­ceed with the on-again, off-again nu­clear sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore.

He told reporters he pre­dicted talks with North Ko­rea would “be a process” but would ul­ti­mately be “suc­cess­ful”, in­di­cat­ing that the rogue regime wants to de­nu­cle­arise.

Mr Trump praised his meet­ing with the most se­nior North Korean to visit the White House in 18 years, say- ing it had lasted longer than ex­pected and “went very well”, with­out im­me­di­ately dis­clos­ing its con­tents. He said Kim Yong-chol was “very nice” and “very in­ter­est­ing”.

How­ever, he added that the June 12 sum­mit would just be “a be­gin­ning”.

“The process will be­gin on June 12 in Sin­ga­pore,” he said.

For the time be­ing, Mr Trump said he would not im­pose ad­di­tional sanc­tions on the regime, say­ing “we had hun­dreds of new sanc­tions ready to go”. He promised he would not im­pose them “un­til the talks break down”.

Ear­lier, Kim Yong-chol had been greeted by White House chief of staff John Kelly, who brought him in­side the White House to meet the pres­i­dent.

Kim Yong-chol was ex­pected to hand de­liver a let­ter from Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dic­ta­tor, to Mr Trump.

Kim Yong-chol, who was pre­vi­ously black-listed by the US for his role in his coun­try’s mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment, is the most se­nior North Korean vis­i­tor to the US since Vice Mar­shal Jo My­ong-rok vis­ited Wash­ing­ton in 2000 to meet Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

Kim Yong-chol was driven from New York to Wash­ing­ton a day af­ter talks with US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom- peo re­gard­ing prepa­ra­tions for the June 12 en­counter.

Both sides have com­mit­ted them­selves to the “de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion” of the Korean penin­sula but it is not clear if Mr Trump’s mis­sion to se­cure Py­ongyang’s dis­ar­ma­ment can be aligned with Kim Jong-un’s quest to win in­ter­na­tional re­spect and pro­tec­tion.

Af­ter Thurs­day’s talks, Mr Pom­peo ex­pressed con­fi­dence that the process was mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion but warned that the North’s young leader must be bold enough to re­alise he would be safer with­out nu­clear weapons.

On the same day in Py­ongyang, the North Korean leader told Rus­sia’s For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov that his com­mit­ment to de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion re­mained “un­changed and con­sis­tent and fixed” but ex­perts warn that he will prob- ably seek deep con­ces­sions from Wash­ing­ton.

In par­tic­u­lar, he wants a for­mal end to the Korean con­flict and is likely to seek in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion and guar­an­tees against any strike by the US forces sta­tioned across the Demil­i­tarised Zone (DMZ) in South Ko­rea.

The de­liv­ery of the let­ter from Kin Jong-un comes only a week af­ter Mr Trump threat­ened to con­sign the en­tire process to his­tory, abruptly can­celling the sum­mit in a sharply worded let­ter, only to re­vive prepa­ra­tions a day later.

Since that short- lived cri­sis, diplo­mats from both coun­tries have con­ducted an in­tense flurry of talks, cul­mi­nat­ing this week when Mr Pom­peo sat down in New York with Kim Jong- un’s en­voy.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, ac­com­pa­nied by Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, speaks to the me­dia on the South Lawn out­side the Oval Of­fice in Wash­ing­ton.

Trump and Kim Yong-chol.

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