US also sends ‘pre-advance’ team to Singapore, while Japan’s Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump decide to meet before ‘expected’ summit

A top aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrived in Singapore on Monday night, a Japanese broadcaster said on Tuesday, adding weight to indications the planned summit with Donald Trump is going ahead.

Kim Chang-son, Kim’s de facto chief of staff, flew to Singapore via Beijing on Monday night, the report by public broadcaster NHK said.

South Korea’s Yohnap news agency reported that Kim Yong-chol, a former North Korean spy chief and senior official, was headed to the US after stopping over in Beijing, presumably for talks with US officials regarding the possible summit.

A team of US government officials, including Joe Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, left the US Yokota air base in Japan for Singapore on Monday, NHK said. The White House said a “pre-advance” team was travelling to Singapore to meet North Koreans.

The White House said Trump and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe talked on the phone on Monday and confirmed they would meet before the “expected” US-North Korea summit. Trump and Abe “affirmed the shared imperative of achieving the complete and permanent dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs,” the White House said in a statement.

Planning for the historic summit, initially scheduled for June 12, appears to be moving ahead after the US president called it off last week. A day later after the cancellation, Trump said he had reconsidered, and officials from both countries met to work out details.

When Kim Chang-son was asked by a reporter at Beijing airport if he was flying to Singapore for talks with the US, he said he was “going there to play”, according to footage from Nippon Television Network.

In a flurry of diplomacy over the weekend, Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in held a surprise meeting on Saturday at the border village of Panmunjom, during which they agreed the North Korea-US summit must be held.

South Korean officials have said Moon may also travel to Singapore during the meeting, but that his attendance is dependent on preliminary meetings between the US and North Korea.

On Sunday, the US state department said American and North Korean officials had met at Panmunjom. Sung Kim, the former US ambassador to South Korea who is now ambassador to the Philippines, led that American delegation, a US official told Reuters.

Moon said on Monday there could be more impromptu talks between the two Koreas in the lead-up to the summit.

In Kim and Moon’s first, upbeat meeting on 27 April, they agreed to seek the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula – but didn’t define what that meant, or how that would proceed. Since then, North Korea has rejected US demands for it to unilaterally abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

Analysts believe Washington is trying to determine whether North Korea is willing to agree on sufficient steps towards denuclearisation to allow a summit to take place.

North Korea defends its nuclear and missile programmes as a deterrent against perceived aggression by the US, which keeps 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

It has long said it is open to eventually giving up its nuclear arsenal if the US withdraws its troops from South Korea and ends its “nuclear umbrella” alliance with Seoul.

Source: The Guardian
Nick Moore : Blogger : Dabaiba News

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