Diplomatic activity has increased ahead of a potential summit between US President, Donald Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. President Trump withdrew from a planned June 12th summit with Kim last Thursday, citing hostile North Korean comments, but has since said the meeting in Singapore could still happen. A team of American diplomats involved in preparatory discussions left a Seoul hotel, possibly to continue talks with their North Korean counterparts.
Meanwhile, in Beijing, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that a senior North Korean official, Kim Yong Chol, was on his way to the United States, to prepare for the forthcoming summit over the future of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. Kim Yong Chol is a former military intelligence chief and now a vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party’s central committee tasked with inter-Korean relations. He would be the most senior North Korean official to visit the United States in 18 years. However, it is not yet clear whom Kim Yong Chol would meet in the United States.
The North Korean’s visit to the US could be a reciprocal visit, after U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, went to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital on two occasions in recent weeks. During those visits he met Kim Jong-un, after which he said there was a “shared understanding” between the two sides about what they hope to achieve in the summit.
South Korean media reported that a North Korean delegation arrived in Singapore on Monday night for probable summit preparations with US officials. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said that Washington and Pyongyang were engaging in “working-level” talks to arrange the possible summit, but he could not confirm specifics. Some reports suggest that the North Korean officials were headed by Kim Chang Son, Kim Jong Un’s close associate, and that his American counterpart would likely be White House deputy chief of staff for operations Joe Hagin.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has lobbied hard for nuclear negotiations between President Trump and Mr Kim, met the North Korean leader for unscheduled talks on Saturday in an effort to keep the summit alive. In their second meeting in a month, Mr Moon said Mr Kim expressed willingness to co-operate to end confrontation and work towards peace for the sake of a successful summit with President Trump. But Mr Kim apparently also said that he was unsure whether he could trust the United States over its promise to end hostile policies against North Korea and provide security assurances if the country does abandon its nuclear weapons.