February 01, 2019 10:02
U.S. and North Korean officials plan to meet for talks in Pyongyang after the Lunar New Year to iron out details of the second bilateral summit scheduled for late February.
A diplomatic source in Seoul said U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun will meet his North Korean counterparts in Pyongyang around Wednesday next week.
They were initially expected to meet in the border truce village of Panmunjom, but instead they settled on Pyongyang since that will speed things up now only four weeks remain until the summit.
"The U.S. became frustrated by the delays caused by North Korean officials having to report back to Pyongyang during six rounds of talks in Panmunjom ahead of the first bilateral summit last year," a diplomatic source here said. "If the talks are held in Pyongyang, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's instructions can be delivered immediately."
Biegun could also meet Kim and deliver a message from U.S. President Donald Trump.
The key focus of the talks is whether the U.S. and North Korea can narrow their differences about the North's denuclearization and any rewards from the U.S. Pyongyang has been calling for an easing of U.S.-led sanctions, but Washington has insisted that the North take the concrete steps toward denuclearization first.
The North could offer to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear facility and Tongchang-ri missile base while handing over its intercontinental ballistic missiles, while the U.S. could offer to open a liaison office, expand humanitarian aid and ease sanctions.
The North is also apparently demanding the inclusion of a multilateral peace treaty on the summit agenda.
The summit is expected in the final week of February. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that a team of U.S. officials has been dispatched to an undisclosed part of Asia to discuss the summit. Possible venues for the summit are Da Nang or Hanoi, Vietnam.
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