WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump was to receive a letter from his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un on Friday, a much-anticipated moment as preparations for a historic nuclear summit gain pace, reports AFP.
Kim’s right-hand man, Kim Yong Chol, was traveling to Washington a day after talks in New York with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made what the US diplomat called “real progress” towards holding the planned June 12 summit.Kim Yong Chol is “on his way now” to the US capital, the North’s mission in New York said.
In Pyongyang, the North Korean leader re-committed his isolated state to “denuclearization,” boosting hopes of what would be an extraordinary diplomatic turn-around just a week after Trump threatened to cancel preparations.
Since that short-lived crisis, diplomats in both countries have conducted an intense flurry of talks, culminating on Thursday when Pompeo sat down in New York with Kim’s envoy.
Simultaneously, Kim met Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and, according to official news agency KCNA, said the North’s “will for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula still remains unchanged and consistent and fixed.”
It is still far from clear that North Korea’s vision of “denuclearization” in exchange for security guarantees and sanctions relief will prove compatible with Washington’s demand for a “complete, verifiable and irreversible” end to its nuclear program.
Many expert observers expect Kim, perhaps with tacit Chinese backing, to demand that Washington also reduce its own military footprint in South Korea and loosen its guarantees to treaty ally Japan.But Pompeo suggested things are moving in the right direction.
“It will take bold leadership from Chairman Kim Jong Un if we were able to seize this once in a lifetime opportunity to change the course for the world,” he said.
“President Trump and I believe Chairman Kim is the kind of leader who can make those kind of decisions, and in the coming weeks and months, we will have the opportunity to test whether or not this is the case.”
Kim Yong Chol—the most senior official from Pyongyang to visit the United States in 18 years—is expected to present an eagerly expectant Trump with a letter from his young leader.
But Pompeo warned this message in itself may not resolve all the issues standing in the way of the summit.
“This is a difficult, difficult challenge. Make no mistake about it. There remains a great deal of work to do,” Pompeo said, citing ongoing talks in Singapore and in the demilitarized zone on the Korean border.
But he said that, after what have now been two meetings with Kim Jong Un and three with Kim Yong Chol, he believes the North is at least ready to consider addressing US demands for denuclearization.
“I believe they are contemplating a path forward. They can make a strategic shift. One that their country has not been prepared to make before. This will obviously be their decision,” he said.
US officials now expect the summit to go ahead, but they want Pyongyang to accept that nuclear disarmament be at the heart of the discussion—and warn there can be no end to trade sanctions without it.
Asked whether the answer would come on Friday in the letter, Pompeo said he did not know but added “we have made real progress in the last 72 hours toward setting the conditions.”
“The conditions are putting President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un in a place where we think there could be real progress made by the two of them meeting,” he said.
In Washington, Trump had said he was “looking forward” to reading the letter.
The flurry of diplomacy has also seen a rapprochement on the Korean peninsula, with the two Koreas holding high-level talks Friday at the border truce village of Panmunjom to discuss their ongoing efforts to improve ties.
The meeting followed two landmark summits between the leaders of North and South Korea in the last five weeks.
The two Koreas agreed to hold more meetings throughout this month to carry out the agreements reached between their leaders at the April summit, a joint statement said following Friday’s talks.
On his visit to Pyongyang, Russia’s Lavrov warned against setting expectations too high, urging all sides to “avoid the temptation to demand everything and now.”
Russia is the latest major nation to reach out to North Korea since Trump accepted Kim’s proposal for a summit. Kim has already had two meetings each with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Even as the summit preparations continued, Japan on Friday said it had reported to the United Nations a suspected North Korean sanctions violation involving a ship-to-ship cargo transfer.
Meanwhile, North and South Korea held high-level talks Friday to discuss their ongoing efforts to improve ties ahead of a landmark meeting between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, reports AFP.
The North-South discussions were originally scheduled for earlier this month but were abruptly called off by Pyongyang in response to a joint US-South Korea air force drill.
But a day after “Max Thunder” ended May 25, the North’s leader Kim had a surprise summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the border truce village of Panmunjom—their second, following a historic first meeting in April.
The two Koreas agreed to hold more meetings throughout this month to carry out the agreements reached between their leaders at the April summit, according to a joint statement released following Friday’s talks.
A round of general-level military talks will be held on June 14 to discuss ways to ease tensions and a Red Cross meeting to plan a reunion for war-separated families is scheduled for June 22.
Officials from the two sides will also meet on June 18 to discuss the prospects of fielding a joint team for the Jakarta Asian Games in August.
The two Koreas formed the first-ever unified Korean Olympic team, a joint women’s ice hockey squad, during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The current rapprochement on the peninsula was triggered by the games, to which the North sent athletes, cheerleaders, and Kim’s sister as an envoy.
The high-level meeting comes as a flurry of diplomacy is underway to lay the groundwork for a historic June 12 summit between Kim and Trump.
Kim’s right-hand man, Kim Yong Chol, is set to deliver a personal letter from Kim to Trump Friday following talks in New York with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which made what the US diplomat called “real progress” towards the planned summit in Singapore.
Simultaneously, Kim met Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Pyongyang and said the North’s “will for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula still remains unchanged and consistent and fixed”, the state-run KCNA news agency said.