North Korea Hold Secret, Direct Talks

The armored train that North Korean leaders have used to travel to China image via Jason Lee ABC

US OFFICIALS are in direct negotiations with representatives of North Korea for the first time ahead of an anticipated summit meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, according to a report Saturday, the New York Post reported. South Korean President Moon Jae-in plans to meet with Kim at the end of April in the demilitarized zone between the North and South. South Korea's National Intelligence Service Chief Suh Hoon has been in close contact with his USA and North Korean counterparts. That visit was Mr Kim's first outside North Korea since he took over the leadership following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in 2011.

But the fact that the USA has confirmed North Korea's willingness to even discuss denuclearization is a positive step toward the Trump-Kim meeting actually taking place, and suggests they are communicating directly in preparation for it.

The talks between intelligence officials are laying the groundwork for a meeting between Pompeo and his North Korea counterpart, the head of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, in advance of the leaders' summit.

"Even if we were aware of the talks, we can not comment on it", said an anonymous Cheong Wad Dae official, according to Yonhap News Agency. The North has yet to officially confirm such intent or Kim's interest in meeting Trump. "It's an extension of the communication channels established by the three countries' top intelligence chiefs." said Hong Min, director of the North Korean studies division at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

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North Koreans officials have reportedly indicated they wanted to hold the summit in their capital of Pyongyang, but the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar has also been mentioned as a possibility.

"But we can not say for certain that the United States counterpart in the North was Reconnaissance General Bureau. What we will see next is the exchanges of presidential envoys between the USA and North Korea".

North and South Korean officials are meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom to discuss setting up a hotline between the leaders of their countries.

The Koreas earlier this week held separate working-level discussions on the protocol, security and media coverage issues of the inter-Korean summit.

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