A North Korean delegation will hand-deliver a letter from its leader Kim Jong-un to Donald Trump on Friday in the regime’s first official visit to Washington for almost 20 years.
The message, a response from Kim Jong-un to Mr Trump’s letter last week cancelling their summit, will be delivered by Kim Yong -chol, North Korea’s former spy chief.
It follows a meeting between Kim Yong-chol and Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, in New York in which talks about denuclearisation were said to have progressed.
Photographs of the pair with aides clinking glasses which appear to contain beer were released yesterday. They dined on American beef steaks, corn and cheese.
Diplomats are scrambling to get the June 12 summit between Mr Trump and Kim Jong-un back on track after the president abruptly pulled last week. He now wants the meeting to take place.
Two US delegations are in Asia – one in Singapore, another in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea – in an attempt to sort security and policy arrangements in time.
Mr Trump tweeted that there had been “very good meetings with North Korea” and revealed that Kim Jong-un’s letter would be arriving in Washington soon.
Mr Trump said: “Our secretary of state is having very good meetings [with the North Korean delegation]. I believe they will be coming down to Washington on Friday. A letter being delivered to me from Kim Jong-un. It is very important to them."
Mr Trump also raised the possibility of future summits, saying there may need to be a “second or third” meeting to secure denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight. Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu. pic.twitter.com/1pu4K3oym7
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 31, 2018
US officials confirmed that they were pushing for “complete verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation”, known by the acronym CVID, as its goal for the talks.
However Pyongyang has rejected demands to give up its entire nuclear programme before any benefits, such as the lifting of economic sanctions, are delivered by the US.
US officials have urged the North Koreans to lay out their disarmament plans in the next few days so the summit, now less than two weeks’ away, can take place.
The sight of Kim Yong-chol, once North Korea’s top spy and a target of US sanctions, arriving in America’s capital today would underline how far relations have improved since last year.
All that matters is getting Trump and Kim in the same room, with or without burgers
It was unclear on Thursday whether Kim Yong-chol, now a senior official and close ally of the leader, will meet Mr Trump personally or enter the White House.
If he does he would become the first high-level Pyongyang figure since 2000 to visit the White House, when senior official Jo Myong Rok met then-president Bill Clinton.
Meanwhile Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, was meeting the North Korean leader Kim in Pyongyang yesterday to discuss denuclearisation.
Mr Lavrov urged all sides to "avoid the temptation to demand everything and now”, adding: "We believe it is very important to treat these contacts in a very delicate manner, not to make any abrupt movements, to artificially speed up the process that requires a significant amount of time. "
We call on all involved sides to fully appreciate their responsibility for not allowing this very important but still fragile process to break down.”
Kim Jong-un said: “As we move to adjust to the political situation in the face of U.S. hegemonism, I am willing to exchange detailed and in-depth opinions with your leadership and hope to do so moving forward.”
Mr Pompeo addressed reporters on Thursday after two days of talks with Kim Yong-chol, saying he was “confident we’re moving in the right direction”.
He said there had been “difficult” conversations but painted the talks in a positive light, building up hopes that the June 12 meeting will go ahead.
Mr Pompeo urged Kim to show "bold leadership" and "seize this once in a lifetime opportunity", adding that North Korea has a "bright future" as a "strong, connected and prosperous" country if he does.
He warned that it “would be nothing short of tragic to let this opportunity go to waste”, but cautioned there would be bumps in the road ahead to achieving denuclearisation.
Mr Pompeo also denied reports that the talks had been cut short and played down claims of differences with allies, saying there was "no day light" between the stances of America, South Korea and Japan.
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