U.S. expects N. Korea summit to happen / Pyongyang mum on talks with Seoul, Washington

ReutersWASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) — The White House said Monday it fully expected an unprecedented meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to take place, if North Korea stuck to its promises, even though Pyongyang has yet to comment publicly on the possibility of a summit.

A South Korean delegation that visited North Korea last week said Kim expressed a wish to meet Trump and South Korea’s president to discuss denuclearization. North Korean media have reported the South Korean visit, but no details of the talks.

Asked if the North Korean silence meant there was a chance the meeting between Trump and Kim would not take place, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, “We fully expect that it will.

“The offer was made and we’ve accepted. North Korea made several promises and we hope that they would stick to those promises and if so the meeting will go on as planned,” she told a regular briefing.

Earlier, South Korea said North Korea’s silence on summits with both the United States and South Korea was probably because of caution in preparing for the meetings, while U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington expected to hear directly from Pyongyang.

“We have not seen nor received an official response from the North Korean regime regarding the North Korea-U.S. summit,” said Baik Tae Hyun, spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

“I feel they’re approaching this matter with caution and they need time to organize their stance.”

In an unexpected move last week, Trump agreed to hold a first-ever meeting with Kim, which South Korea said would take place by the end of May after a North-South summit in April.

News of possible talks has been a dramatic turnaround from fears of war over North Korea’s development of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States.

Trump made the announcement after the head of a South Korean delegation that met Kim last week said the North Korean leader had committed to denuclearization and pledged to refrain from nuclear and missile tests.

Asked in a Fox News interview due to air on Monday evening whether there was a real possibility of North Korea denuclearizing, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said, “We’ll see, as the president often says.”

But Pence called Kim’s offers to cease missile and nuclear testing while not objecting to U.S.-South Korean military exercises “a remarkable step forward” and a result of Trump’s tough approach.

“He’s marshaled unprecedented economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime in North Korea and this breakthrough — and we hope it is a breakthrough — is a result of the strong leadership the president has provided on the world stage,” Pence said.

Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae In will meet at the truce village of Panmunjom straddling the Korean border, but a venue for the North Korea-U.S. summit has yet to be decided.

U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster briefed U.N. Security Council envoys in New York on Monday.

“We all agreed that we’re optimistic about this opportunity, but we’re determined, we’re determined to keep up the campaign of maximum pressure until we see words matched with deeds and a real progress toward denuclearization,” McMaster said.

South Korean U.N. Ambassador Cho Tae Yul, who attended the McMaster briefing, described the plans for talks with North Korea as a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

In Geneva, the U.N. investigator on North Korea told the world body’s Human Rights Council that any progress in the nuclear and security dialogue must be accompanied by talks on human rights violations, including political prison camps.

North Korea’s state media have lauded the thaw in relations with South Korea. It has continued to warn the United States and Japan against war-mongering, but its rhetoric has been tame compared with threats exchanged at the height of tensions last year. Speech

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