Russian foreign minister to head to North Korea

Kim Jong-un commits to North Korea denuclearization as U.S. delegation arrives

President Donald Trump confirmed Tuesday that a top North Korean official is headed to NY for talks attempting to salvage an upcoming summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as diplomatic efforts also accelerated in Asia.

A team of US officials led by former USA nuclear negotiator Sung Kim began talks with North Korean officials at the Korean border village of Panmunjom on Sunday to set the agenda for the summit.

Kim, in a dispatch issued by the North's state-run news service earlier Sunday, "expressed his fixed will on the historic (North Korea)-U.S. summit talks".

Kim Yong Chol, who is about 72, is a contentious figure outside North Korea.

"Solid response to my letter, thank you!" tweeted Trump.

South Korea said today it wasn't aware of the trip by Kim Yong-chol, who is vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee.

Moscow said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would travel to North Korea on Thursday to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

A team of U.S. diplomats was seen going through security checks at the military guard point leading to Panmunjeom around 9 a.m.to hold preparatory discussions with North Korean officials for the June 12 summit in Singapore. Trump pulled out of the meeting Kim Jong Un last week, but then said a day later that it could get back on track.

Last week USA president Donald Trump pulled the United States from the summit, telling Kim Jong-un in a long-winded and at times freaky letter North Korea as displayed "tremendous anger and open hostility". The agency said it is "widely expected" that Kim would travel to the US "to reciprocate recent visits" by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Both sides have been eager to hold the meeting after tensions flared previous year over North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests.

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Following an unusually provocative 2017 in which Kim's engineers tested a purported thermonuclear warhead and three long-range missiles theoretically capable of striking mainland USA cities, the North Korean leader has engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activity in recent months. Seoul did not confirm reports that the North Korean officials were headed by Kim Chang Son, Kim Jong Un's close associate, and that his American counterpart would likely be White House deputy chief of staff for operations Joe Hagin.

Trump's tweet offered praise for the longtime US adversary, and the latest signal that his concerns about the North's stance toward the summit have been allayed.

Trump appears optimistic that a meeting with Kim will take place, sending updates on the proposal on Twitter over Memorial Day weekend.

On Tuesday, South Korea's foreign ministry said it will focus "all efforts" to lay the groundwork for the success of ongoing diplomacy with the North.

An AFP photographer saw Kim Chang Son, Kim Jong Un's de facto chief of staff, in Singapore Tuesday for preparatory discussions there.

"In the North Korean mind, denuclearization of the Korean peninsula means really the abrogation of the U.S". It remains unclear whom Kim Yong Chol will meet in the United States.

But Washington wants North Korea's nuclear program to be the focal point.

Trump confirmed Tuesday that Kim was to hold talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Seoul blames him for masterminding the 2010 sinking of the South Korean navy corvette, the Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors, an attack North Korea denies playing any role in. -North Korea talks there.

North Korea's mission to the United Nations in NY is its sole diplomatic presence in the United States. "What the United States wants from the North as the first step would be. the North transferring some of its nuclear warheads outside the country, destruction of intercontinental ballistic missiles that can hit the U.S. mainland", said Hong Min, senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

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