US President Donald Trump has confirmed that a team of American officials arrived in North Korea to organise the planned summit between him and Kim Jong-un, after he officially cancelled the meeting last week and then appeared to retract that move.
"The United States continues to actively prepare for President Trump's expected summit with leader Kim in Singapore", said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.
A visit to the United States would be the highest-level North Korean official visit since 2000, when late National Defense Commission First Vice Chairman Jo Myong-rok visited Washington, South Korea's Unification Ministry said.
The U.S. president still hopes the summit will take place on June 12 in Singapore.
"During the South Korea-U.S. summit, President Trump said the U.S.is willing to clearly put an end to hostile relations (between the U.S. and North Korea) and help (the North) achieve economic prosperity if North Korea conducts denuclearization", he said.
According to the White House, Secretary of State Pompeo to meet with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol in NY this week.
There had been speculation that Kim, who greeted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang this month, would be traveling to the United States amid frenzied talks aimed at salvaging the summit, scheduled to be held in Singapore on June 12.
Following an unusually provocative 2017 in which Kim's engineers tested a purported thermonuclear warhead and three long-range missiles theoretically capable of striking mainland US cities, the North Korean leader has engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activity in recent months.
Kim Chang-son (L), North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's de facto chief of staff, prepares to get into a auto as he leaves a hotel in Singapore on May 29, 2018.More news: Celtics’ Jayson Tatum Climbs All-Time Rookie Playoff Scoring List In Game 7
The talks are focused on the crux of the potential summit - the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.
Sung Kim will meet North Korean Foreign Ministry official Choi Sun Hee again on Wednesday on the border, Yonhap reported, citing a diplomatic source, adding that the agenda for the Trump-Kim summit would be roughly worked out. Another U.S. delegation was in Singapore to work on logistics.
Yonhap said Kim, who had arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, was travelling with five other North Korean officials. Since then, Trump has suggested the meeting could be back on.
Human rights abuses in North Korea, including violations of religious freedom, are a "matter of discussion" ahead of the planned summit, Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador at large for global religious freedom, said on Tuesday.
"It remains to be seen whether Kim Yong-chol's trip to the United States is to shake up the game as things are not working out, or to finalize details as the countries have reached an agreement".
A vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party, Kim Yong Chol has been deeply involved in North Korean diplomacy this year.
But he has been at his leader's side at key summit meetings this year, and his current trip to Beijing is seen as a stopping-off point for a solo trip to America. The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
Despite Kim's apparent eagerness for a summit with Trump, there are lingering doubts on whether he would ever agree to fully relinquish his nuclear weapons when he may see them as his only guarantee of survival.
Gen. Kim has also been blamed by South Korea for the 2010 sinking of a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, which killed 46 seaman.
He holds a number of senior positions within North Korea's communist hierarchy. "What the USA wants from the North as the first step would be. the North transferring some of its nuclear warheads outside the country, destruction of intercontinental ballistic missiles that can hit the United States mainland", said Hong Min, senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification. He was linked by U.S intelligence to a cyber attack on Sony Pictures in 2014.