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U.S., South Korean diplomats meet ahead of Trump-Kim summit

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

SEOUL, South Korea >> Senior U.S. and South Korean officials met today to discuss an expected second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump’s special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in South Korea earlier amid reports that he’ll meet North Korean officials soon to work out details for the summit.

Trump told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “the meeting is set” with Kim, but he provided no further details about the meeting expected around the end of February. The president said there was “a very good chance that we will make a deal.”

With the North under economic penalties and the U.S. unwilling to ease them under the North denuclearizes, Trump said Kim “has a chance to have North Korea be a tremendous economic behemoth. It has a chance to be one of the great economic countries in the world. He can’t do that with nuclear weapons and he can’t do that on the path they’re on now.”

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Biegun and his South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon held consultations about working-level U.S.-North Korea talks ahead of the summit.

South Korean media reported Biegun and his North Korean counterpart Kim Hyok Chol will likely meet at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom or in the North’s capital of Pyongyang early this week.

Little progress has been made toward ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons since Trump and Kim held their first summit in Singapore last June. During that summit, Kim pledged to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, though he did not provide a timetable or roadmap for his disarmament steps.

Last year, North Korea suspended nuclear and missile tests, dismantled its nuclear test site and parts of its rocket launch facility and released American detainees. The North demanded the United States to take corresponding measurers such as sanctions relief.

U.S. officials want North Korea to take more significant steps, saying sanctions will stay in place until North Korea denuclearizes.

Satellite footage taken since the June summit has indicated North Korea has been continuing to produce nuclear materials at its weapons factories. Last Tuesday, U.S. intelligence chiefs told Congress they believe there is little likelihood Kim will voluntarily give up his nuclear weapons or missiles capable of carrying them.

Biegun said last week that Kim committed to “the dismantlement and destruction of North Korea’s plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities” during his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in September and at a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October.

During the second summit, some experts say North Korea will likely seek to trade the destruction of its main Yongbyon nuclear complex for a U.S. promise to formally declare the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, open a liaison office in Pyongyang and allow the North to resume some lucrative economic projects with South Korea.

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