Top North Korean general on way to U.S. ahead of summit

Alex Brandon  AP

Statements by President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as well as the dispatch of a White House logistics team to Singapore, raised expectations that a planned summit there between the two leaders could still happen, despite Trump calling it off last week.

USA negotiators, headed by Washington's current ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, met with North Korean counterparts in the truce village of Panmunjom that divides the two Koreas on Sunday.

Despite repeated references to "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" by the North, it remains unclear whether Kim will ever agree to fully abandon his nuclear arsenal.

Kim Sung-han, professor of global relations at Korea University, said Trump will have difficulty accepting any conditions from North Korea, partly because he had been so critical of the Iran nuclear deal.

The second meeting between Kim and Moon in as many months reflects urgency among both men to maintain momentum for diplomacy.

From 2009 to 2016 he was also director of North Korea's General Reconnaissance Bureau, the unit tasked with cyber warfare and intelligence gathering.

Today is a US bank holiday so the price action may be limited or exaggerated due to low volume.

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

Planning for the historic summit, initially scheduled for June 12, appears to be moving ahead after the United States president called it off last week.

The two countries, as well as South Korea, have since worked to reschedule the meeting, with the White House this weekend sending a team of USA officials to Singapore to meet with North Koreans and prepare should the summit go forward.

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Mr Kim and Mr Moon held talks in the demilitarised zone separating their two nations on Saturday in a scramble to salvage the summit.

The Washington Post, citing a person familiar with the arrangements, said Mr Sung Kim, a former USA ambassador to South Korea and former nuclear negotiator with the North, was leading the United States team, which met Mr Choe Son Hui, the North Korean vice-foreign minister. "I truly believe North Korea has brilliant potential and will be a great economic and financial Nation one day".

The source said agreement to hold the talks was reached between Washington and Pyongyang "through a separate channel" from a surprise summit between Kim Jong-un and President Moon Jae-in on Saturday.

But within 24 hours, he had reversed course, saying it could still go ahead after productive talks were held with North Korean officials.

The news of an American delegation in the North was later confirmed by the U.S. State Department.

As the rapprochement with the United States has picked up pace, Kim Yong Chol appears to have taken on a broader remit to deal with the Trump administration.

Those details were supposed to have been worked out two weeks ago, when Hagin traveled to Singapore to arrange details of the talks, but the North Korean delegation never arrived.

South Korean news agency Yonhap said Gen Kim Yong-chol was due to arrive in the United States on Wednesday, via Beijing.

In a conciliatory statement on Friday aimed at getting the summit back on track, North Korea said it favoured a "Trump formula" to resolve tensions and praised the president for agreeing to meet Mr Kim. Vice Minister Kim found fault with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton's call to use the Libya model of denuclearization on Pyongyang.

Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi agreed in 2003 to give up his weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear arms, in return for sanctions relief.

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