President Trump huddled with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the White House on Wednesday to fine tune their strategy ahead of the top diplomat’s dinner meeting with Gen. Kim Yong-chol, the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit the U.S. in 18 years.
The dinner meeting in Manhattan was part of a string of talks taking place in New York, Panmunjom and Singapore to set up a likely June 12 summit between Mr. Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
The denuclearization of North Korea remains the focus of the negotiations and the impetus for the summit, said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“That’s what these ongoing conversations taking place now will be centered on, as well as this summit that would take place in Singapore,” she said. “And we’re going to continue — as long as that is part of the discussion, we’re going to continue to shoot for the June 12th and expect to do that.”
Gen. Kim, vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling central committee and a former spy master, arrived Wednesday in New York on an Air China flight from Beijing.
The dinner meeting with Mr. Pompeo was to be followed by a series of meeting Thursday.
Gen. Kim is the right hand man of Mr. Kim, and he is considered a key player in the pre-summit negotiations.
Mr. Pompeo has spearheaded work on the summit, including two trips to Pyongyang.
Further boosting expectations for the historic summit were positive reports from the U.S. team in Panmunjom, a town in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. The team has been hammering out the parameters for a deal in talks with high-level North Korean officials....“So far, the readout from these meetings has been positive, and we’ll continue to move forward in them,” said Mrs. Sanders.Despite the progress, the two sides remain far from a final deal.South Korea’s unification minister said a “huge” but not insurmountable gap remained between the U.S. and North Korea.“It won’t be easy to narrow this gap and coordinate with each other, but our judgment is that it’s not impossible. Our assessment is that they will reach a compromise,” unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon said in a statement carried by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.He said that compromise, in Seoul’s view, should be “a package deal on the North’s denuclearization and guarantees of regime security.”Mr. Trump has previously tried to assure Mr. Kim in public comments that the U.S. will guarantee his safety as part of any agreement in which Pyongyang abandons its nuclear weapons and missile programs.The diplomacy and prep work for the summit have kicked into overdrive after Mr. Trump last week sent Mr. Kim a letter that canceled the summit over what