Both sides preparing as if US-NKorea summit will happen

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Kim Yong-chol, director of North Korea's United Front Department, which is responsible for inter-Korean relations, was spotted in Beijing Tuesday, en route to NY where he could hold talks with US officials to fine-tune details for a possible summit next month.

This graphic image, using file photos from the AP and EPA, shows (from L to R) Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday that Lavrov would hold talks with North Korea's foreign policy chief to discuss bilateral issues as well as the overall situation on the Korean Peninsula.

He is among the small number of North Korean officials who have accompanied leader Kim Jong Un to all four of his recent summits- twice with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and twice with Chinese President Xi Jinping. -North Korea summit appears to be back on track, but Pyongyang is showing increased impatience at comments coming out of Washington that what leader Kim Jong Un really wants, even more than his nuclear security blanket, is American-style prosperity.

Associated Press reporters saw Kim Yong Chol at Beijing's airport just after noon.

But he said that, after what has now been two meetings with Kim Jong Un and three with Kim Yong Chol, he believes the North is at least ready to consider meeting United States demands for denuclearization.

While Kim Yong Chol's trip to the United States could further brighten the prospects, history shows that plans for a summit could still crumble. Now, according to a statement from State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Sunday, a US delegation "is in ongoing talks with North Korean officials at Panmunjom", too.

He would be the highest-level North Korean official to travel to the USA since 2000.

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North Korea has faced years of isolation and economic sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs since it conducted its first nuclear test in 2006.

The State Department said a separate team of White House officials has also headed to Singapore to sort out logistics for the historic meeting.

Moon and Kim held unannounced talks on Saturday in the DMZ.

North Korea's flurry of diplomatic activity following a torrid run in nuclear weapons and missile tests in 2017 suggests that Kim Jong Un is eager for sanctions relief to build his economy and the worldwide legitimacy the summit with Trump would provide. The group first met with their counterparts Sunday, and was seen leaving a Seoul hotel on Tuesday, but it was unclear whether they went to Panmunjom, a village that straddles the border inside the Demilitarized Zone.

US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Monday that it is "imperative" to completely dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program, the White House said. "Kim Jong Un agrees with me on this". But there are lingering doubts on whether Kim will every fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he may see as his only guarantee of survival in a region surrounded by enemies.

"We are having very productive talks with North Korea about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date", Trump tweeted Friday.

Their second meeting came after inter-Korean relations had chilled in recent weeks, with North Korea canceling a high-level meeting with Seoul over South Korea's participation in a two-week military exercise with the United States that ended last week.

Trump said Sunday that a USA team was in North Korea to work on plans.