A hand-picked delegation of US officials have crossed into North Korea to hold talks on preparations for a possible summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
Former US ambassador to South Korea and nuclear negotiator with the North, Sung Kim, was recalled from his post as Philippines ambassador to lead the preparations, US media reported Monday morning.
Both Pyongyang and Washington are pressing ahead with plans for a meeting between the two leaders in Singapore, despite Mr Trump cancelling the scheduled June 12 summit on Thursday only to reconsider the decision the next day.
Mr Trump reiterated his new-found support for the meeting on Monday morning, when he tweeted “it will happen”.
Our United States team has arrived in North Korea to make arrangements for the Summit between Kim Jong Un and myself. I truly believe North Korea has brilliant potential and will be a great economic and financial Nation one day. Kim Jong Un agrees with me on this. It will happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2018
Sung Kim reportedly crossed into North Korean territory with Allison Hooker, the White House National Security Council’s Korea expert.
The pair with Choe Son-hui, the North Korean vice foreign minister, the Post reported, adding Pentagon official Randall Schriver is also currently in Seoul.
The talks are expected to continue Monday and Tuesday at Tongilgak, or “Unification House”, in the northern part of the demilitarised zone where Mr Kim met the South Korean President on Saturday, Heather Nauert, a State Department spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Post.
“We continue to prepare for a meeting between the President and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un,” she said.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said a “pre-advance team” left for Singapore on Sunday morning (local time) to work on logistics for a possible summit.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in earlier stated that he and North Korean leader Mr Kim agreed at a surprise meeting on Saturday that the North Korea-US summit must be held.
Mr Kim reaffirmed his commitment to “complete” denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and to a planned meeting with Mr Trump, Mr Moon told a news conference in Seoul.
“Chairman Kim and I have agreed that the June 12 summit should be held successfully, and that our quest for the Korean peninsula’s denuclearisation and a perpetual peace regime should not be halted,” he said.
The meeting was the latest dramatic turn in a week of diplomatic ups and downs surrounding the prospects for an unprecedented summit between the US and North Korea, and the strongest sign yet that the leaders of the two Koreas are trying to keep the on-again off-again meeting on track.
While maintaining that Mr Kim is committed to denuclearisation, Mr Moon acknowledged Pyongyang and Washington may have differing expectations of what that means and he urged both sides to hold working-level talks to resolve their differences.
A statement from North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said Mr Kim expressed “his fixed will” on the possibility of meeting Mr Trump as previously planned.
Mr Trump said on Saturday he was still looking at a June 12 date for a summit in Singapore and that talks were progressing very well.
“We’re doing very well in terms of the summit with North Korea,” the President said at the White House.
“It’s moving along very nicely. So we’re looking at June 12th in Singapore. That hasn’t changed. So, we’ll see what happens.”