WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House said on Wednesday that negotiations at the demilitarized zone along the border between North and South Korea for a potential summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are going well and it expects the historic meeting to take place on June 12.
“The U.S. delegation led by Ambassador Sung Kim met with North Korean officials today as well and their talks will continue. So far the readouts from these meetings have been positive and we’ll continue to move forward in them,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at a regularly scheduled briefing.
“We’re going to continue to shoot for the June 12th and expect to do that,” she said, referring to the original date scheduled for the summit.
Trump confirmed in a tweet that Kim Yong Chol, a former spy chief and trusted adviser to North Korea’s leader, was on his way for what would be the highest-level meeting in this week’s flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at salvaging the historic summit.
“We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea,” Trump said in a Twitter post on Tuesday. “Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young (sic) Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!”
Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee and formerly head of a top North Korean military intelligence agency, will meet Pompeo later this week, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
“The United States continues to actively prepare for President Trump’s expected summit with leader Kim in Singapore,” she said.
But she stopped short of saying the meeting had been reinstated after Trump canceled it last week in a letter to Kim, citing “open hostility” in North Korean statements
commitments toward getting rid of its nuclear weapons, a U.S. official said, despite Pyongyang’s insistence it will not unilaterally denuclearize.
Trump thinks “ongoing discussions are going very well,” Sanders said. She was referring to talks over the weekend between U.S. and North Korean officials in the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas and a White House logistics team’s discussions with North Korean counterparts in Singapore.
The senior North Korean envoy was expected to arrive in the United States on Wednesday after speaking to Chinese officials in Beijing, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.
The New York talks suggest that planning for the unprecedented summit, initially scheduled for June 12, is now moving ahead – and possibly into a more advanced phase.
Kim Yong Chol will be the most senior North Korean official to meet top officials for talks in the United States since Jo Myong Rok, a marshal, met then-President Bill Clinton at the White House in 2000.
Kim Yong Chol coordinated the North Korean president’s two meetings with Pompeo in April and May.
North Korea has faced years of isolation and economic sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs since it conducted its first nuclear test in 2006.
The North had tested missiles believed to be capable of reaching the United States, but Trump has vowed not to let Pyongyang develop one that could deliver a nuclear warhead.