U.S. officials worked with North Korea over the weekend on plans for the on-off-on meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as Trump signaled increasing optimism for the sit-down.
Trump tweeted Sunday that a U.S. team was in North Korea to work on the possible summit. Another delegation was in Singapore to discuss logistics. On Monday, the White House said Trump had spoken with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about the North Korea efforts, adding that the two planned to get together to coordinate strategy for the “expected meeting” with Kim.
Trump withdrew from the planned June 12 summit in Singapore last Thursday, but quickly announced it could still happen. The president’s Sunday tweet offered praise for the longtime U.S. adversary, another signal that his concerns about the North’s stance toward the summit had been allayed.
“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!,” Trump tweeted.
The White House did not say when Trump would meet with Abe. Both leaders are expected to attend the Group of Seven summit in Quebec, Canada, on June 8-9.
Both the State Department and South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the American and North Korean officials have been engaged in talks at the Korean village of Panmunjom, which straddles the border inside the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in gave details about his surprise meeting Saturday with Kim in Panmunjom, saying Kim had committed to sitting down with Trump and to a “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tapped veteran American diplomat Sung Kim, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, to handle pre-summit negotiations. On a separate but complementary track was the CIA team Pompeo set up last year when he headed the spy agency. And on a third track was a White House logistical group sent to Singapore on Sunday to prepare in case the summit takes place. It was led by Joe Hagin, White House deputy chief of staff for operations.
The Korean leaders’ second summit in a month saw bear hugs and broad smiles. But their quickly arranged meeting appeared to highlight a sense of urgency on both sides of the world’s most heavily armed border.