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(LEAD) N.K. leader appears to have decided to hold summit with Trump in Dec.: Seoul

All Headlines 18:57 November 04, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES throughout with more quotes, minor edits)

SEOUL, Nov. 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears to have decided to hold a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in December ahead of the year-end deadline Pyongyang has set for a nuclear deal with Washington, Seoul's spy agency was quoted as saying Monday.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) made the assessment during a closed door parliamentary audit session, adding that the two countries are expected to resume their working-level talks this month, or no later than early December, according to lawmakers on the intelligence panel.

"The NIS thinks Kim has set his mind on another summit in December," Rep. Kim Min-ki of the ruling Democratic Party told a press briefing.

Rep. Lee Eun-jae of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party also said that time appears to be coming for a "full-fledged consultations" between the two sides as they have identified each other's positions at the Stockholm talks in early October.

The U.S. and North Korea held working-level nuclear talks in the Swedish capital after months of stalemate, but the talks broke down again with the North accusing the U.S. of failing to come up with a new proposal.

Seoul's spy agency is closely watching the possibility of Kim making a visit to China within this year, as North Korea and China celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic ties this year.

The spy agency told lawmakers that the North and China are apparently consulting Kim's possible trip to Beijing. Kim visited China for talks with President Xi Jinping ahead of his previous summits with Trump in Singapore and Hanoi.

Touching on the North's missile capability, the NIS said North Korea launched its intercontinental ballistic missiles from mobile launchers.

Pyongyang fired three ICBMs in 2017 before it announced the completion of its nuclear force in November of that year.

Chung Eui-yong, chief of Cheong Wa Dae's National Security Office, came under fire from conservative critics for saying it is "technically difficult" for North Korea to fire ICBMs from mobile launchers, during a recent parliamentary audit session.

Seoul is also closely monitoring the North as it could test fire a missile from its new submarine being built at the Sinpo shipyard on its east coast, according to the lawmakers. The submarine is estimated to be in the final stages of construction.

The agency also said Kim Pyong-il, the North's top envoy to the Czech Republic, has been replaced and that he is expected to return home soon, together with the North's ambassador to Austria, Kim Kwang-sop. Kim Kwang-sop is brother-in-law of Kim Pyong-il, a younger half-brother of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Suh Hoon, chief of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), attends a parliamentary inspection of the NIS by the intelligence committee of the National Assembly in Seoul on Nov. 4, 2019. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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