Prospects that the United States and North Korea would hold a summit brightened after US President Donald Trump said late on Friday Washington was having â€œproductive talksâ€ with Pyongyang about reinstating the June 12 meeting in Singapore.
Politico magazine reported that an advance team of 30 White House and State Department officials was preparing to leave for Singapore later this weekend.
Reuters reported earlier this week the team was scheduled to discuss the agenda and logistics for the summit with North Korean officials. The delegation was to include White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joseph Hagin and deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel, US officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Trump said in a Twitter post late on Friday: â€œWe are having very productive talks about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date.â€
Trump had earlier indicated the summit could be salvaged after welcoming a conciliatory statement from North Korea saying it remained open to talks.
â€œIt was a very nice statement they put out,â€ Trump told reporters at the White House. â€œWeâ€™ll see what happens – it could even be the 12th.â€
â€œWeâ€™re talking to them now. They very much want to do it. Weâ€™d like to do it,â€ he said.
The comments on the summit with North Koreaâ€™s leader Kim Jong Un came just a day after Trump canceled the meeting, citing Pyongyangâ€™s â€œopen hostility.â€
South Koreaâ€™s presidential spokesman said in response: â€œWe are cautiously optimistic that hope is still alive for US-North Korea dialogue. We are continuing to watch developments carefully.â€
After years of tension over Pyongyangâ€™s nuclear weapons program, Kim and Trump agreed this month to hold what would be the first meeting between a serving US president and a North Korean leader. The plan followed months of war threats and insults between the leaders over North Koreaâ€™s development of missiles capable of reaching the United States.
Trump scrapped the meeting in a letter to Kim on Thursday after repeated threats by North Korea to pull out over what it saw as confrontational remarks by US officials demanding unilateral disarmament. Trump cited North Korean hostility in canceling the summit.
In Pyongyang, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said North Koreaâ€™s criticisms had been a reaction to American rhetoric and that current antagonism showed â€œthe urgent necessityâ€ for the summit.
He said North Korea regretted Trumpâ€™s decision to cancel and remained open to resolving issues â€œregardless of ways, at any time.â€
Kim Kye Gwan said North Korea had appreciated Trump having made the bold decision to work toward a summit.
â€œWe even inwardly hoped that what is called â€˜Trump formulaâ€™ would help clear both sides of their worries and comply with the requirements of our side and would be a wise way of substantial effect for settling the issue,â€ he said.
Trumpâ€™s latest about-face sent officials scrambling in Washington. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters diplomats were â€œstill at workâ€ and said Trump had just sent a note out on the summit, which could be back on â€œif our diplomats can pull it off.â€
US State Department spokeswoman Katina Adams declined to give details of any diplomatic contacts but said: â€œAs the president said in his letter to Chairman Kim, dialogue between the two is the only dialogue that matters. If North Korea is serious, then we look forward to hearing from them at the highest levels.â€
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters Trump did not want a meeting that was â€œjust a political stunt.â€
â€œHe wants to get something thatâ€™s a long-lasting and an actual real solution. And if they are ready to do that then … weâ€™re certainly ready to have those conversations,â€ she said. (Reuters)