US team in North Korea raises expectations of a Trump-Kim summit

The US President was speaking as he met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House

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"Our United States team has arrived in North Korea to make arrangements for the Summit between Kim Jong Un and myself", he tweeted Sunday.

North Korea's Kim Yong-chol - the regime's former spy chief and the current director of its department for inter-Korean relations - was spotted taking a flight bound for NY on Tuesday afternoon in Beijing. The two planned a "day full of meetings" Thursday, the White House said.

In their second meeting in a month, Moon said Kim expressed willingness to cooperate to end confrontation and work toward peace for the sake of a successful summit with Trump. "The fact that Kim Yong-chol is visiting the USA - that in itself means that coordination between the two is nearly over, . with only a few factors left to be resolved".

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he and US President Donald Trump have agreed to meet before a possible US-North Korea summit.

Also Tuesday, the White House announced Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with senior North Korean official Kim Yong-chol in NY later this week, as the fate of a long-awaited summit between Trump and Kim remains in the air.

As North Korea dispatched a top official to New York City for agenda talks with Americans, Trump and aides said there are a number of preparatory meetings taking place.

The conference had been scheduled for June 12 in the island nation, but Trump announced last week that he had chose to "terminate" the meeting following a provocative statement from the North and its decision to skip planning talks and ignore preparatory phone calls.

Chung Sung-yoon, an analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification, said Kim Yong Chol would be the most senior North Korean official to step onto United States soil since Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok met President Bill Clinton in 2000. The pair arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, Yonhap, the South Korean news agency, reported. Associated Press journalists saw the plane taxi down the tarmac before the North's delegation disembarked at JFK International Airport. USA officials familiar with planning said he was scheduled to meet with Pompeo on Thursday.

Pyongyang also demanded the United States halt future joint military drills with South Korea if it truly wishes for talks with North Korea, the North's Rodong Sinmun said on Tuesday.

Moon said on Monday there could be more impromptu talks between the two Koreas in the lead-up to the summit.

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General Kim is a deeply controversial figure in South Korea, where he is blamed for masterminding the 2010 sinking of the navy corvette the Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors, an attack for which North Korea denies responsibility.

"Solid response to my letter, thank you!" tweeted Trump.

North Korea's Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee. American officials have called for a "package deal" to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula while the North prefers a "phased and synchronized" process. After a round of talks on Monday, the two sides met again on Tuesday, presumably to discuss details, including specific timelines, on how the global community will ensure security for Kim's regime if it relinquished its nuclear arsenal.

He will be the highest-ranking North Korean to visit the United States since Gen. Jo Myong Rok went to the White House to see President Bill Clinton in 2000, part of a denuclearization effort that went nowhere.

The South Korean president, who is playing something of a mediator role in the talks, was optimistic afterward.

According to the State Department, the USA team met with North Korean officials at the same DMZ site, the village of Panmunjom.

Kim Yong Chol is to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The White House has stopped short of saying the proposed June summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un had been reinstated after Trump canceled it last week in a letter to Kim, citing "open hostility" in North Korean statements.

"I think Xi took it as a slap in the face when Kim Jong-un unilaterally stopped nuclear testing even as he dropped his insistence on an end to US-South Korean military exercises", says Glaser.

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