BFF-02 Trump to receive Kim letter as nuclear summit takes shape

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Trump to receive Kim letter as nuclear summit takes shape

NEW YORK, June 1, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – US President Donald Trump was to receive
a letter from his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un on Friday, a much-
anticipated moment as preparations for a historic nuclear summit gain pace.

Kim’s right-hand man, Kim Yong Chol, was due in the US capital a day after
talks in New York with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made what the US
diplomat called “real progress” towards holding the planned June 12 summit.

Meanwhile, back in Pyongyang, the Korean leader re-committed his isolated
state to “denuclearization,” boosting hopes of what would an extraordinary
diplomatic turn-around just a week after Trump threatened to cancel
preparations.

Since that short-lived crisis, diplomats in both countries have conducted
an intense flurry of negotiations, culminating on Thursday when Pompeo sat
down in New York with Kim’s envoy.

Simultaneously, Kim met Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and,
according to official news agency KCNA, said the North’s “will for
denuclearization of the Korean peninsula still remains unchanged and
consistent and fixed.”

It is still far from clear that North Korea’s vision of “denuclearization”
in exchange for security guarantees and sanctions relief will prove
compatible with Washington’s demand for a “complete, verifiable and
irreversible” end to its nuclear program.

Many expert observers expect Kim, perhaps with tacit Chinese backing, to
demand that Washington also reduce its own military footprint in South Korea
and loosen its guarantees to treaty ally Japan.

But Pompeo suggested things are moving in the right direction.

“It will take bold leadership from Chairman Kim Jong Un if we were able to
seize this once in a lifetime opportunity to change the course for the
world,” he said.

“President Trump and I believe Chairman Kim is the kind of leader who can
make those kind of decisions, and in the coming weeks and months, we will
have the opportunity to test whether or not this is the case.”

– Strategic shift –

Kim Yong Chol — the most senior official from Pyongyang to visit the
United States in 18 years — is expected to head to Washington to present an
eagerly expectant Trump with a letter from his young leader.

But Pompeo warned that this message in itself may not resolve all the
issues standing in the way of the summit.

“This is a difficult, difficult challenge. Make no mistake about it. There
remains a great deal of work to do,” Pompeo said, citing ongoing talks in
Singapore and in the demilitarized zone on the Korean border.

But he said that, after what have now been two meetings with Kim Jong Un
and three with Kim Yong Chol, he believes the North is at least ready to
consider addressing US demands for denuclearization.

“I believe they are contemplating a path forward. They can make a strategic
shift. One that their country has not been prepared to make before. This will
obviously be their decision,” he said.

US officials now expect the summit to go ahead, but they want North Korea
to accept that nuclear disarmament be at the heart of the discussion — and
warn that there can be no end to trade sanctions without it.

Asked whether the answer would come on Friday in the letter, Pompeo said he
did not know but added “we have made real progress in the last 72 hours
toward setting the conditions.”

“The conditions are putting President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un in a
place where we think there could be real progress made by the two of them
meeting,” he said.

Earlier, in Washington, Trump had said he was “looking forward” to reading
the letter.

– Russia urges caution –

On his visit to Pyongyang, Lavrov warned against setting expectations too
high, urging all sides to “avoid the temptation to demand everything and
now.”

The veteran Russian envoy passed on greetings from President Vladimir Putin
to Kim and invited him to visit Russia, the Russian foreign ministry said.

Russia is the latest major nation to reach out to North Korea since Trump
accepted Kim’s proposal for a summit. Kim has already had two meetings each
with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

BSS/AFP/MRI/0840 hrs