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On-Again, Off-Again North Korea Summit May Be on Again

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo bids farewell to senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chul, director of the United Front Department, on his departure from Pyongyang on May 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthew Lee, Pool)

WASHINGTON — The on-again, off-again planned summit between North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and President Trump seems to be back on again as sanctions restrictions have been waived to enable a top Kim aide to travel to New York.

A day after President Trump wrote a letter to North Korea calling off the planned June 12 summit while lamenting a lost possible friendship and peace deal, he lauded Pyongyang’s reply as “very nice” and said “we’ll see” about the possibility of the summit being back on.

“I felt like a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you,” Trump wrote in the Thursday letter, which a White House official said was dictated in full by the president.

The president added that if Kim Jong-un changes his mind, “please do not hesitate to call me or write.”

The response, issued through the official Korean Central News Agency, came from 1st Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye-kwan, said Trump’s “sudden and unilateral announcement to cancel the summit is something unexpected to us and we can not but feel great regret for it.”

“It is hard to guess the reasons. It could be that he lacked the will for the summit or he might not have felt confident. But for our part, we have exerted sincere efforts,” he said. “…The US side’s unilateral announcement of the cancellation of the summit makes us think over if we were truly right to have made efforts for it and to have opted for the new path.”

Trump mused to reporters that day that the summit could go forward as planned.

Today, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the North Koreans “have been engaging” and the U.S. “continues to actively prepare for President Trump’s expected summit with leader Kim in Singapore.”

Trump will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on June 7 at the White House, while later this week North Korean Vice Chairman of the Central Committee Kim Yong Chol is planning on traveling to New York to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Kim, a former director of the country’s intelligence service, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, is alleged to be behind the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan in 2010 — a North Korean torpedo attack that killed 46 seamen.

There’s also a U.S. delegation meeting with a North Korean delegation in the DMZ, including U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, National Security Council Korea director Allison Hooker, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randy Schriver, who “plan to have additional meetings this week,” Sanders said.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin “and the U.S. pre-advance team are in Singapore coordinating the logistics of the expected summit,” she added, and National Security Advisor John Bolton “has had calls with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts virtually every day, including speaking with his South Korean counterpart this morning — these calls have been ongoing over the last couple of weeks.”

State Department press secretary Heather Nauert told reporters today that she would not get into “all of the nitty-gritty” of the upcoming meetings.

“I’m not going to get in to all of the details of that but I think it’s pretty impressive thinking about where we were one year ago, where we were even six months ago for that matter,” she said. “And now, we have three simultaneous meetings taking place on this matter to talk about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”