US delegation travels to North Korea for potential summit preparation

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A US delegation traveled to North Korea on Sunday for preparatory talks ahead of a potential meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, three senior US officials with knowledge of the situation tell CNN.

The group included US Ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, and is a clear sign the summit between the two leaders is back on track. Kim is meeting with Choe Son Hui, an experienced North Korean diplomat who specializes in the country’s relationship with Washington.

The Washington Post previously reported on the team entering into North Korea.

A team of US officials focused on the logistics of a summit left this weekend for Singapore. The delegation that entered North Korea on Sunday is more focused on the substance of the talks.

Sung Kim, the US envoy to the Philippines, was previously an ambassador to South Korea and a special representative for North Korea policy. He also represented the United States at the six-party talks, the failed diplomatic effort in which China, Russia, Japan, the US and South Korea negotiated with North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Randall G. Schriver, the assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, and Allison Hooker, director for Korea on the White House’s National Security Council, were also part of the US delegation that traveled to North Korea.

The summit, which was initially scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, was abruptly canceled last week by Trump who, in a letter to Kim Jong Un, cited hostile comments from top North Korean officials — including Choe — and concern about the country’s commitment to giving up its nuclear weapons.

North Korea responded to Trump’s cancellation by saying it regretted the US President’s decision, but appreciated his willingness to actually sit down with Kim Jong Un and said it was still willing to do so.

Trump told reporters Friday he appreciated their statement and that dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang was ongoing. He said Saturday evening: “We’re looking at June 12th in Singapore. That hasn’t changed.”

Moon meets Kim

South Korean President Moon Jae-in held an impromptu meeting with Kim Saturday at the demilitarized zone dividing the two countries, only the fourth time a meeting had been held between the leaders of the two Koreas.

While briefing reporters on his meeting with the young North Korean leader Sunday, Moon said that practical talks will be held between the US and North Korea “very soon,” and the outcome of those talks will dictate if the June 12 summit will go ahead. He added that he expected the practical talks and summit to go “very smoothly.”

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Dana Bash that he agreed with Trump’s letter to the North Korean leader.

“I support the letter that President Trump sent to Kim Jong Un, I think it was a good thing to do,” Clapper said.

Clapper added that despite the setbacks, he thought there was still value in holding a summit.

“I think there’s value having gone this far, there’s value in meeting and greeting, gripping and grinning, and just establishing a rapport. I think yes, it would be important to have the summit,” he said.

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