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(LEAD) (US-NK summit) Preparations in full swing for Trump-Kim summit

Diplomacy 11:50 February 22, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with S. Korean envoy's Hanoi trip in 4th para, Pompeo's remarks, other details in last 9 paras)

SEOUL, Feb. 22 (Yonhap) -- With the second meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump five days away, the Korean War foes look busy preparing for what would be a watershed event in denuclearization, future bilateral relations and regional security.

Their emissaries are holding two-track negotiations in Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital that is set to host the two-day summit from next Wednesday.

Kim Hyok-chol, Pyongyang's new point man on Washington, met with his counterpart Stephen Biegun for hours at a Hanoi hotel Thursday. They are expected to hold additional talks up until the last minute before the summit to reach a rough deal on the wording of the so-called Hanoi Declaration.

South Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Lee Do-hoon, headed to Hanoi on Friday for consultations with Biegun to coordinate a negotiation strategy.

Separately, a North Korean team, led by Kim Chang-son, an official at the State Affairs Commission, is crisscrossing the city apparently to decide the leader's itinerary, lodging and the summit location.

The team is also reportedly in contact with a group of U.S. officials headed by Daniel Walsh, a White House adviser, to fine-tune the details of the leaders' joint photo-ops and other public availability, such as the timing of handshakes between Kim and Trump and the angle of cameras.

(LEAD) (US-NK summit) Preparations in full swing for Trump-Kim summit - 1

Also to be determined is when and how Kim Jong-un will appear in Hanoi.

Some news reports raised the possibility that the relatively young man will use overland transportation from Pyongyang. He flew to Singapore in June last year, for the first encounter with Trump, on a rented Chinese plane.

The Chinese border city of Dandong, a gateway for North Korea's transport, may be gearing up for the passage of Kim's special train.

"The Zhonglian hotel abruptly decided on Thursday afternoon to stop taking reservations for Saturday and Sunday," a local source said. "It is not accepting foreigners starting Friday and began to cancel bookings. This could be related to Chairman Kim's trip."

If Kim chooses a train trip, it would take a few days for him to reach Hanoi, versus several hours by flight. He's widely expected to arrive in Hanoi on Monday or Tuesday amid the strong possibility that he will meet with Vietnamese leaders ahead of the summit with Trump.

In Washington D.C., U.S. officials issued pre-summit messages via media. They admitted that the follow-up talks should be more intensive in agenda than the Singapore meeting.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recalled the unification of Germany.

"I remember I was a young soldier patrolling the East German border in 1989. No one anticipated that the wall would come down on the day that it came down," he said in an interview with Fox Business. "I'm hopeful that ... the world gets a day like that here as well, where no one expects that North Korea will take this action."

Another Trump administration official signaled the pursuit of a bold deal.

"I think we actually need to move very quickly in this process and I think we need to move in very big bites," he told reporters in a background press conference call. "So, we are not looking to have incremental steps as a key driver of this process."

The official's comments suggest that the U.S. is seeking speedy and comprehensive steps toward denuclearization, an improvement in ties with North Korea and a peace regime, although Trump said he's "in no rush."

The focus is what the North Korean leader intends to achieve through the charm offensive.

"I don't know if North Korea has made the choice yet to denuclearize, but the reason why we're engaged in this is because we believe there is a possibility," the official said.

There's no common definition of denuclearization. For the U.S., denuclearization means getting rid of the secretive communist nation's nuclear arsenal. But the North apparently wants mutual disarmament, in which the U.S. would pull down its nuclear umbrella for South Korea, including halts to the deployment of nuclear-powered strategic assets to the peninsula.


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