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US despatches army of envoys to salvage talks

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Before any summit meeting, the American team, led by Sung Kim (left), a veteran diplomat, is seeking detailed commitments from Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, about his regime's willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

[WASHINGTON] The United States and North Korea on Sunday kicked off an urgent, behind-the-scenes effort to resurrect a summit meeting between their two leaders by June 12, racing to develop a joint agenda and dispel deep scepticism about the chances for reaching a framework for a lasting nuclear agreement in so little time.

Technical and diplomatic specialists from the United States made a rare visit to North Korea to meet with their counterparts, US officials said Sunday. Before any summit meeting, the American team, led by Sung Kim, a veteran diplomat, is seeking detailed commitments from Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, about his regime's willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

In a tweet on Sunday night, US President Donald Trump confirmed the meetings in the North Korean part of Panmunjom, a "truce village" in the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas. He also expressed his administration's newfound optimism about the meeting, further embracing the conciliatory language both sides have used since he cancelled the planned meeting on Thursday.

"I truly believe North Korea has brilliant potential and will be a great economic and financial Nation one day," Mr Trump wrote on Twitter after a second straight day of golf at his Virginia club. "Kim Jong Un agrees with me on this. It will happen!"

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White House officials said Joe Hagin, a deputy White House chief of staff, is leading a separate delegation in Singapore, where the summit meeting had been scheduled to take place, to work out logistics: when the various meetings would take place, how much would be open to the press, which officials would be in the negotiating rooms, how to handle security concerns.

The simultaneous negotiations in the DMZ and in Singapore signalled an accelerated effort by the governments in both countries to complete the preparations required to get the meeting back on track.

Such issues would typically be handled by a well-established diplomatic process of lower-level negotiations that usually takes months, if not years, before a meeting between the leaders of two nations. But Mr Trump short-circuited that process in March, when he abruptly accepted an invitation to meet with Mr Kim.

NYTIMES

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