U.S. team in NKorea raises expectations of a Trump-Kim summit
May 29 2018
"We are watching developments carefully", Presidential Blue House spokesman Kim Eui Gyeom said. Three thousand miles away in Singapore, a team of United States logistics officials arrived late Monday and was expecting the arrival of a corresponding team from Pyongyang.
President Donald Trump indicated on Friday that the proposed summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may still happen.
The Washington Post first reported that the team, which also included Allison Hooker, the Korea expert on the White House National Security Council, met with Choe Son Hui, the North Korean vice foreign minister.
Trump, speaking Friday to graduates at the U.S. Naval Academy, did not mention North Korea directly, but he stressed the United States' military might.
US defense and intelligence officials have repeatedly assessed the North to be on the threshold of having the capability to strike anywhere in the continental USA with a nuclear-tipped missile - a capacity that Trump and other US officials have said they would not tolerate.
The U.S. and North Korea do not have formal diplomatic relations, complicating the task of communicating between the two governments.
The team, led by Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, was to go to Singapore this weekend to meet with a North Korean team to make plans for the June 12 summit.
Trump announced he was canceling the summit in a letter addressed to Kim on Thursday, but left open the possibility of conducting one in the future.
North Korea responded to Trump's announcement by saying it was willing "to sit down face-to-face with the United States and resolve issues anytime and in any format", but added that Trump was responsible for the derailed relations.
On May 16, North Korea criticized US national security adviser John Bolton, who had called for North Korea to quickly give up its nuclear arsenal in a deal that would mirror Libya's abandonment of its programme for weapons of mass destruction. They discussed their shared goal of achieving "the complete and permanent dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs". Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed by NATO-backed militants after halting his nascent nuclear program.
US regional allies Japan and South Korea, as well as North Korea's main ally, China, urged the two countries to salvage the summit on Friday. He said meetings were ongoing and that the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula "would be a great thing for North Korea". U.S. officials said the most likely document would provide a framework for future negotiations, without going into great detail about what North Korea might be willing to give up or what steps the United States would take in exchange. Sanders, his spokeswoman, told Fox News on May 15: "This is the President Trump model". Rekindling hopes as quickly as he had doused them, Trump said it was even possible the meeting could take place on the originally planned June 12 date. The goal of the preliminary meetings includes drafting a communiqué for both leaders to approve at their historic meeting, the USA official said. "We'll see what happens - it could even be the 12th". Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters diplomats were "still at work" and said Trump had just sent a note out on the summit, which could be back on "if our diplomats can pull it off".