US President Donald Trump, who last week announced US pull-out from talks with North Korea, on Sunday said a US team is in North Korea to prepare for a proposed summit between him and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
US and North Korean officials had earlier met at Panmunjom, a village in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) on the border between North and South Korea, according to the US State Department.
“Our United States team has arrived in North Korea to make arrangements for the Summit between Kim Jong Un and myself,” Trump wrote on Twitter, confirming US officials arrival in North Korea for the talks.
“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 added.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said a “pre-advance team” had also left for Singapore where the summit has been expected to take place on Sunday morning to work out the logistics.
In signs that the two Koreas are determined to mend relations, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Sunday that he and North Korea’s Kim had agreed during a surprise meeting on Saturday that the North Korea-US summit must be held.
“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,” Moon said.
Moon acknowledged Pyongyang and Washington may have differing expectations of what denuclearisation means and he urged both sides to hold working-level talks to resolve their differences.
The United States, which suspects that Pyongang may not be honest in its offer of deneucleration, has demanded the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible” dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.
Pyongyang has rejected unilateral disarmament and has always couched its language in terms of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
For years, North Korea has been facing years of economic sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes since it conducted its first nuclear test in 2006.
Leaders of the two Koreas are now trying to end the war-like situation despite the diplomatic ups and downs over the prospects for an unprecedented US-North Korea summit.
The Washington Post said the talks at the border would continue on Monday and Tuesday at Tongilgak, the North’s building in Panmunjom, where the truce suspending the 1950-53 Korean War was signed.
A Reuters report quoting US officials said former US ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim, will lead the American delegation at the border meet. Pentagon official Randall Schriver was part of the US team, the official said.
The Washington Post first reported that the team, which also included Allison Hooker, the Korea expert on the White House National Security Council, met with Choe Son Hui, the North Korean vice foreign minister.
Meanwhile, Kim is reported to have reaffirmed his commitment to “complete” denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and to a planned summit with Trump.
North Korea had earlier said it could consider giving up its arsenal if Washington removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.
American officials are skeptical that Kim will ever fully abandon his nuclear arsenal while Moon said North Korea was not convinced it could trust security guarantees from the United States.
“However, during the US-South Korea summit, President Trump clearly emphasised that we may see not only the end of hostile relations but also economic cooperation if North Korea denuclearises,” Moon said.
Moon met Trump in Washington on Tuesday in an effort to keep the US-North Korea summit on track.