Spymasters prepare for US-NK summit

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The United States and North Korea are holding secret, direct talks ahead of the planned summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the media reported.

Quoting various USA officials, the report said a team at the Central Intelligence Agency, led by its Director Mike Pompeo, has been working through back-channels to make arrangements for the high-profile talks. A date will be set once the two sides can agree on a location.

Analysts said the efforts show that the USA intelligence agencies are taking the lead for summit preparations, but expressed scepticism whether such moves were headed by the North's Reconnaissance General Bureau, which deals with clandestine operations against South Korea.

South Korea's presidential office said on Sunday (April 08) while they can not confirm whether such secret talks have been taking place, it is a certainly a "good sign" in paving the way for what would be the first summit between North Korea and the US.

The proposed meeting has been read as a sign of easing tensions, but it is not clear what will emerge from a meeting between the two leaders.

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China, North Korea's only major ally and main economic lifeline, has been calling for a "dual suspension" of North Korean nuclear and missile activities in return for the United States and South Korea suspending their large-scale military exercises.

North Korea has been under heavy UN Security Council sanctions since it staged a series of nuclear tests and missile launches in defiance of global pressure to abandon its atomic programme.

Former Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, who awaits Congressional confirmation for his appointment as a secretary of state.

Kim will meet with his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, at the border truce village of Panmunjom on 27 April.

The Chinese government has briefed the White House after a meeting in Beijing between Mr Kim and President Xi Jinping late last month. The agenda of the meeting is not yet known, and North Korea has not been clear about what steps it is willing to take to move toward denuclearisation.