New Straits Times


Main stumbling block for June 12 summit is definition of denucleari­sation


UNITED States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a top North Korean official continued talks here yesterday to try to salvage the nuclear summit due later this month, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov flew to Pyongyang for discussion­s with Kim Jong-un.

Kim Yong-chol, considered the North Korean leader’s righthand man, is the most senior official from Pyongyang to visit the US in 18 years.

Pyongyang’s envoy joined Pompeo at the apartment of a US diplomat on Manhattan’s East Side for talks over an evening meal that lasted about 1½ hours.

“Good working dinner with Kim Yong-chol in New York tonight,” Pompeo tweeted.

“Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu.”

It was the third meeting between the two officials, who were working to finalise planning for a June 12 summit designed to end a nuclear stand-off that threatened to plunge Korea back into war.

“They are meeting to see what needs to be done in the two weeks that remain,” a US official said.

“Between now and if we’re going to have a summit, they’re going to have to make clear what they’re willing to do.”

In Pyongyang, Lavrov arrived in the capital for talks with Jong-un, saying before the meeting that Moscow “welcomes” the recent flurry of diplomacy on the peninsula.

“We also cheer the summits that have already taken place between Pyongyang and Seoul, and the next planned summit between the leaders of North Korea and US,” said Lavrov, on his first visit to the North since 2009.

Lavrov passed on greetings from President Vladimir Putin to the North Korean leader and invited him to visit Russia, according to a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Russia is the latest major nation to reach out to North Korea since Trump accepted Jong-un’s proposal for a summit to defuse tensions.

Kim had already had two meetings each with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and Pompeo — once as CIA director and then as secretary of state.

Lavrov spoke with Pompeo by telephone for the first time on Wednesday, ahead of his Pyongyang trip.

Earlier last month, President Donald Trump suddenly announced a cancellati­on of the summit, before reversing course 24 hours later.

The recently-appointed secretary of state called his South Korean and Singaporea­n counterpar­ts over the weekend, and Japan is also keenly watching summit preparatio­ns.

Yong-chol, who is on his first US visit, is the most senior North Korean on US soil since ViceMarsha­l Jo Myong-rok met thenpresid­ent Bill Clinton in 2000.

The general has played a key role during recent rounds of diplomacy aimed at ending the nuclear stalemate on the Korean peninsula.

The key task ahead of the June 12 summit is to settle the agenda. The main stumbling block is likely to be the concept of “denucleari­sation” — both sides said they were in favour of it, but there was a yawning gap between their definition­s.

 ?? AFP PIC ?? Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang yesterday.
AFP PIC Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang yesterday.

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