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Home / World / The differences between the US and North Korea over denuclearization remain "significant," the South Korean official said

The differences between the US and North Korea over denuclearization remain "significant," the South Korean official said



In an island resort off the beaten track of international reporters, a high-ranking adviser to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with his US counterpart on Wednesday to plan one of the most anticipated diplomatic events in a decade.

The meeting in Singapore – one of three bilateral meetings this week aimed at saving a summit meeting between Kim and President Trump – only dealt with logistics, but was kept secret.

The hotel's security stalled journalists from the resort's outskirts off the southeastern coast of Singapore, and the White House and State Department refused to confirm even banal details, such as dates or attendees.

The logistical meeting came in the midst of renewed doubts that Kim and President Trump will actually sit down to negotiate the US call for a complete phasing out of Pyongyang's nuclear program. Last week, Trump canceled the summit, but days later he approved a flood of new talks in New York, Singapore and the Korean demilitarized zone to explore how it can be rebuilt. But on Wednesday, a senior South Korean official warned that there were "significant" differences between the two sides regarding denuclearization.

The two teams in Singapore have the task of hammering the logistics of the summit from the venues to the transport for safety, to group photos. They are facing a massive deadline on June 1

2, knowing that a failed meeting could increase the chances of a military confrontation between Washington and Pyongyang.

"We need to remember that today's summits between two nations are completely written matters – no detail, agenda or outcome is left to chance," said Harry Kazianis, an Asia expert at the Center for National Interests. "These negotiations take months, and the operations for North Korea and the United States must be considered, and the result must be determined before the meeting."


On May 26, 2018, people watch a television screen with President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in a news bulletin at Seoul Station in Seoul. (1965-19008) [ Trump's renewed fixation on a June 12 summit brings officials in trouble]

Kim expressed unusual interest in the logistics of the summit and turned to Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo during his visit to Pyongyang This month, fuel for the 6,000-mile roundtrip to Singapore and the number of bodyguards he could bring, according to the conversational person who was not allowed to conduct sensitive conversations.

Although most of the logistics teams were led by a lower bureaucrat, Kim sent his de facto chief of staff Kim Chang Son, one of the country's most powerful officials, to the head of the North Korean team. The US team is led by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, who has served in every Republican administration since Ronald Reagan's presidency.

On Wednesday afternoon, the two teams met at the luxurious Capella Hotel on the island of Sentosa. Some members of the teams in the US and North Korea casually dressed in kakis and short-sleeved buttons in Singapore's mild 85-degree heat. The hotel prevented journalists from entering, and a Washington Post reporter was told to leave after briefly speaking to the American delegation.

When Hagin came to a meeting with Kim Chang Son, he told the Post that the teams were still discussing the venue of the summit. "We're working on it," he said.


This undated photo, released by the North Korean government on September 3, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un conducting an inspection at an unknown location. (Korean News Agency News on AP, File)

The organizers have many options.

The Shangri-La, a 747-room hotel, has held important security conferences for years, including the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, which attracts dozens of defense ministers and state officials, including leading US officials.

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino, a massive three-tower building with a huge rooftop swimming pool, could appeal to Trump's Vegas-style sensibilities, as well as a conflict of interest. The resort is owned by a firm run by Sheldon Adelson, one of Trump's biggest political sponsors, a prospect that could make it more or less attractive.

"Help your biggest donor or avoid the sump effect?" Said Douglas Paal, an Asia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Singapore, as a destination for the summit, has pros and cons. It is considered a neutral city as the island has longstanding trade and investment relations with the United States and has maintained diplomatic relations with North Korea since 1975, while other countries have broken their ties. But it will not provide the kind of familiarity that benefited last month's meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim on the country's border.

"The South Koreans, along with North Korean officials, did a dress rehearsal for some days before the event on April 27 in Panmunjom, but this is probably not an option in Singapore, so there are a lot of stage directions a protocol that needs to work through Satisfying both sides, "said Scott Snyder, Asia expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. "You need to agree on a minute-long ticket that outlines the entire match including security, media and logistics."

In the run-up to the Summit, foreign journalists flocked to Singapore to discuss every aspect of summit planning. On Monday, as Caucasian men in suits walked through the Shangri-La Hotel, the South Korean news agency Yonhap speculated that the "Western" men might be the American team investigating a possible summit location, though such sightings are rarely uncommon an international city like Singapore.

A South Korean Channel A journalist, Seungjin Ryu, said he spent six hours in hot weather without a toilet or food donation on Tuesday, waiting for a look at the North Korean delegation outside Fullerton Hotel. 19659022] "We stopped around 1am and got McDonald's," he said. "This was tedious and confusing because the two delegations did not have clear information."

Meanwhile, a separate team of US and North Korean negotiators in the Korean Demilitarized Zone seems to have encountered obstacles after a four-hour meeting Wednesday. This group focuses on the substance of the negotiations should a Trump-Kim summit take place, but South Korean reunification minister Cho Myoung-gyon said the various positions of Washington and Pyongyang "remain quite important."

"It will not be easy to fill the void and find common ground, but I think it would not be impossible," he said during a speech in Seoul.

Discussions are expected to resume with a separate meeting between Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo and North Korean official Kim Yong Chol this week.

Both levels of negotiations between US and North Korean officials aim to fill the gap in North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Program issue before the June 12 summit

Cho said he hopes the meeting between Pompeo and Kim will continue Yong Chol, which will take place later this week.

"Now that the leaders of the two countries are in top-down talks, I believe the odds are high that common ground can be found," he said.

Michelle Ye Hee Lee in Seoul on this report


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