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Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 11:54
US expects talks to happen despite DPRK silence
By Reuters
Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 11:54 By Reuters

In this Aug 10, 2017, file photo, a man watches a television screen showing US President Donald Trump and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's top leader Kim Jong-un during a news program at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, the Republic of Korea. The White House said on March 12, 2018  it fully expected an unprecedented meeting between US President Trump and DPRK leader Kim to take place even though Pyongyang has yet to comment publicly on the possibility of a summit. (AHN YOUNG-JOON, FILE / AP)

WASHINGTON/SEOUL - The White House said on Monday it fully expected an unprecedented meeting between US President Donald Trump and Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s leader Kim Jong-un to take place, if the DPRK stuck to its promises, even though Pyongyang has yet to comment publicly on the possibility of a summit.

Tillerson said several steps would be necessary to agree on the location and scope of the talks, adding later that a "neutral" site would be needed

A delegation from the Republic of Korea (ROK) that visited DPRK last week said DPRK leader Kim Jong-un expressed a wish to meet Trump and ROK's president to discuss denuclearization.

DPRK media have reported the ROK visit, but no details of the talks.

Asked if the DPRK 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. The DPRK  is also referred to as North Korea. 

Earlier, ROK said DPRK's silence on summits with both the US and ROK was probably because of caution in preparing for the meetings, while US 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-US summit," said Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman for ROK's Unification Ministry.

"I feel they're approaching this matter with caution and they need time to organize their stance."

Tillerson said several steps would be necessary to agree on the location and scope of the talks, adding later that a "neutral" site would be needed.

"It's very early stages. We've not heard anything directly back from North Korea but we expect to hear something directly from them," he said during a visit to Nigeria.

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

READ MORE: Trump to meet DPRK's Kim, ROK says by May

News of possible talks has been a dramatic turnaround from fears of war over DPRK's development of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the US.

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

Asked in a Fox News interview whether there was a real possibility of DPRK denuclearizing, US Vice-President Mike Pence said: "We'll see, as the president often says."

In this Feb 1, 2018, photo, Vice President Mike Pence addresses the Republican National Committee (RNC) Winter Meeting in Washington, United States. (CLIFF OWEN / AP)

Kim and ROK President Moon Jae-in will meet at the truce village of Panmunjom straddling the Korean border, but avenue for the DPRK-US summit has yet to be decided.

China urges patience 

US national security adviser H.R. McMaster briefed UN 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.

ROK UN Ambassador Cho Tae-yul, who attended the briefing led by McMaster, described the plans for talks with DPRK as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The ROK officials who met Kim travelled to Washington last week to relay his message and visited China on Monday to brief President Xi Jinping, who urged patience.

In this Oct 25, 2017 photo, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, who is also Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, meets with delegates, specially invited delegates and non-voting participants of the 19th CPC National Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. (LAN HONGGUANG / XINHUA)

READ MORE: ROK envoys leave for US to brief officials on DPRK visit

ROK's National Security Office chief, Chung Eui-yong, who led the delegation to Pyongyang, will head to Russia on Tuesday, while intelligence official Suh Hoon met Japan's foreign minister in Tokyo, where he is to speak with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday.

In Beijing on Monday, Xi told Chung there was an important opportunity for talks.

"At the same time, all sides must exercise patience and be attentive, and show political wisdom, to appropriately face and dispel any problems and interference to resuming the talks process," state media cited Xi as saying.

Xi said China looked forward to smooth talks between the two Koreas and between the US and DPRK, and substantive progress in the denuclearization process and normalization of ties.

Tensions eased as the Koreas held talks against the backdrop of the Winter Olympics in ROK last month, but Japan has expressed scepticism and warned that "talks for the sake of talks" would be unacceptable.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said after talks with Suh Hoon that Tokyo and Seoul agreed that maximum pressure must be maintained on DPRK until it takes concrete action to address concerns about its weapons programs.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono speaks to reporters during a news conference, Dec 15, 2017, at United Nations headquarters. (MARY ALTAFFER / AP)

Kono declined to say what that action should be, but ROK's presidential Blue House quoted him as saying that the breakthrough on talks with DPRK was a near "miracle".

In Geneva, the UN investigator on DPRK 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.

DPRK's state media have lauded the thaw in relations with ROK. It has continued to warn the US and Japan against war-mongering, but its rhetoric has been tame compared with threats exchanged at the height of tensions last year.

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