US and North Korea preparing Trump-Kim summit

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Media captionKorean leaders’ surprise “Hollywood” meeting

A US team is holding talks with North Korean officials to prepare a possible meeting between President Donald Trump and the North’s leader Kim Jong-un.

The talks in the village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas, are the latest sign that the summit could take place after all.

On Thursday Mr Trump called off the meeting – due in Singapore next month – citing the North’s “hostility”.

US and North Korea preparing Trump-Kim summit
US and North Korea preparing Trump-Kim summit

But both sides have since been working to get it back on track.

On Saturday Mr Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held an unannounced meeting. Mr Moon said the North’s leader had “again made clear his commitment to a complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

Mr Kim later spoke of his “fixed will” that the summit should go ahead. On Sunday Mr Trump tweeted that it would help the North achieve its “brilliant potential”.

Skip Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump

Our United States team has arrived in North Korea to make arrangements for the Summit between Kim Jong Un and myself. I truly believe North Korea has brilliant potential and will be a great economic and financial Nation one day. Kim Jong Un agrees with me on this. It will happen!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2018

End of Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump

What is the aim of the latest talks?

The team is reportedly led by Sung Kim, a former ambassador to South Korea, and was to hold talks with North Korean Vice-Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui.

The aim of the talks is to set an agenda for the summit between the leaders.

While officials appear more optimistic about that meeting going ahead, recent weeks have shown that the relationship can change very quickly, says the BBC’s Chris Butler in Washington.

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How Trump and Kim have changed their tone

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What needs to be sorted ahead of the summit?

There is still a lot of ground to be covered and Mr Trump has clearly shown that if he does not think a deal can be done, he will not go.

It is unclear whether Mr Kim will agree to fully abandon his nuclear arsenal. Similar pledges in the past have not been upheld.

Analysts say the US had wanted denuclearisation first – followed by rewards in the form of lifted sanctions and economic aid.

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Media captionThe nuclear word Trump and Kim can’t agree on

Mr Kim has indicated he wants a phased approach, with his steps met by reciprocal ones from the US and the South – mainly on sanctions but also easing of the US military presence in South Korea.

Mr Trump has not ruled out such an approach.

North Korea has been subjected to numerous rounds of international sanctions since 2006, which has cut off most of its exports and capped its imports of oil.

The North also wants assurances that its survival as a state would never be in question.

How did we get here?

Getting this far has been a surprise given that North Korea had maintained its strident rhetoric – and continued its nuclear and missile tests – through 2016 and 2017.

This brought a bitter war of words between Mr Trump and the North Korean leadership.

But a rapprochement began in January when Mr Kim suggested he was “open to dialogue” with South Korea.

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Image caption Koreans played under a unified flag at the Winter Olympics

The following month the two countries marched under one flag at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, held in the South.

Mr Kim announced he was suspending nuclear tests and held his landmark summit with Mr Moon last month.

This week North Korea said it had dismantled its Punggye-ri nuclear test site, although scientists believe it partially collapsed after the last test in September 2017.

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