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01 June 2018, 04:42 | Marta Robbins
Top North Korean officials travel to U.S., Singapore in summit preparations
The U.S. officials are led by Sung Kim, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, who formerly was the U.S. ambassador to Seoul and a top negotiator with North Korea in past nuclear talks.
Yonhap said Kim, who had arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, was travelling with five other North Korean officials.
North Korean leader Kim's de facto chief of staff, Kim Chang Son, meanwhile, flew to Singapore, the scheduled site of the meeting, via Beijing late on Monday, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported.
A vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party, Kim Yong Chol has been deeply involved in North Korean diplomacy this year. That suggests Kim might have chosen to first go to NY because it would make it easier for him to communicate with officials in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has laid Washington's road map out in more detail. But it's not known what else he'll do there.
Both sides have been eager to hold the meeting after tensions flared previous year over North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests.
State media unleashed another attack on the idea Sunday, calling Fox News, CBS and CNN "hack media on the payroll of power" for airing programs that featured USA officials talking about how large-scale, nongovernmental economic aid awaits North Korea if it moves toward verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.
Russian Federation is the latest major nation to reach out to North Korea since Trump accepted Kim's proposal for a summit.
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Pompeo and Kim met during the secretary of state's two trips to Pyongyang in April and May.
A team of US officials led by former USA nuclear negotiator Sung Kim began talks with North Korean officials at the Korean border village of Panmunjom on Sunday to set the agenda for the summit. The statement didn't say when Trump and Abe would meet, but both are scheduled to attend the G20 summit later this month in Toronto. But there are lingering doubts on whether Kim will ever fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he may see as his only guarantee of survival in a region surrounded by enemies. Sanctions relief would open the door for more trade with China, South Korea and possibly Russian Federation partners North Korea trusts more than it trusts Washington and potentially unlock access to global financial institutions.
North Korea defends its nuclear and missile programs as a deterrent against what it sees as US aggression.
Since then, North Korea has rejected USA demands for it to unilaterally abandon its nuclear program, which experts say could threaten the United States.
The two leaders "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 statement said. Beijing backs the North's proposal for a phased and synchronized denuclearization process, while the United States insists on a comprehensive one-shot deal in which North Korea eliminates its nukes first and receives rewards later. USA and North Korean officials held preliminary talks at the Korean border and were expected to hold a separate set of working-level meetings in Singapore to discuss protocol, security and other logistical issues for the summit.
About three weeks later, Albright made a historic reciprocal trip to Pyongyang to try to arrange a North Korea trip by Clinton.
The warming ties between the two countries chilled after President George W. Bush took office in January 2001, taking a tough line on the North.
Kim Yong Chol, who is about 72, is a contentious figure outside North Korea. Both Seoul and Washington imposed sanctions on him in recent years.
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