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North Korean, U.S. officials try narrowing differences on eve of Trump-Kim summit

Reuters  |  SINGAPORE 

By Kim and Steve Holland

(Reuters) - U.S. and North Korean officials were in talks in on Monday in a late bid to narrow differences before their leaders hold an historic summit aimed at finding ways to end a nuclear stand-off on the

North Korea's and U.S. arrived in the tropical city-state on Sunday for the first ever face-to-face meeting by leaders of two countries that have been enemies since the 1950-1953 Korean War.

With gaps remaining over what denuclearisation would entail, officials from both sides were trying to push the agenda forward ahead of Tuesday's summit.

Commenting for the first time on the agenda, North Korea's state-run agency said the two sides would exchange "wide-ranging and profound views" to re-set relations. It heralded the summit as part of a "changed era".

Discussions would focus on "the issue of building a permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean peninsula, the issue of realising the denuclearisation of the and other issues of mutual concern," said.

In the lead up to the summit, rejected any unilateral nuclear disarmament, and KCNA's reference to denuclearisation of the peninsula has historically meant that wants the to remove its "nuclear umbrella" protecting and

U.S. Mike Pompeo, who is also in Singapore, said in a tweet that was "committed to the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".

Many experts on North Korea, one of the most insular and unpredictable countries in the world, remain sceptical Kim will ever completely abandon its cherished nuclear weapons. They believe Kim's latest engagement is aimed at getting the to ease the crippling sanctions that have squeezed the impoverished country.

A official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. side was entering the talks with a sense of optimism and an equal dose of scepticism given North Korea's long history of developing nuclear weapons.

"We will not be surprised by any scenario," said the

The said Trump and Kim would hold a one-on-one meeting on Tuesday that could last up to two hours. He described it as a "get to know you plus" meeting.

Later, a meeting including officials could last another hour.

With the eyes of the world following him, Trump flew into aboard on Sunday, fresh from a divisive meeting in with some of Washington's closest allies that further strained global trade ties.

Asked by a how he felt about the summit, Trump said: "Very good".

In a tweet on Monday, he said: "Great to be in Singapore, excitement in the air!"

Kim had arrived hours earlier in a plane loaned by China, which for decades has been North Korea's only major ally. Both leaders were greeted on arrival by

The summit's venue is the on Sentosa, a resort island off with luxury hotels, a theme park and man-made beaches.

'SPUR OF THE MOMENT'

Trump, speaking in on Saturday, said any agreement at the summit would be "spur of the moment," underscoring the uncertain outcome of what he called a "mission of peace".

He initially touted the potential for a grand bargain with to rid itself of a nuclear missile programme that has advanced rapidly to threaten the

But he has since lowered expectations, backing away from an original demand for North Korea's swift denuclearisation.

He has said the talks would be more about starting a relationship with Kim for a negotiating process that would take more than one summit.

Sung Kim, a veteran who recently held talks with North Korean officials, led the U.S. delegation in working level talks on Monday.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Monday's meeting appeared aimed at making 11th-hour progress ahead of the summit since Sung Kim's earlier talks did little to narrow a gap between the two sides on the definition of denuclearisation or win agreement on tangible commitments from toward dismantling its nuclear arsenal.

THEIR ENTOURAGES

Trump was to meet Singapore for a working lunch on Monday, while Kim has no agenda.

Kim arrived at after his longest trip overseas as head of state, wearing his trademark dark "Mao suit" and distinctive high-cut hairstyle. He has not left his country since taking office in 2011 other than to visit and the South Korean side of the border Demilitarised Zone.

Travelling with him were top officials including Ri Yong Ho, No and Kim Yong Chol, a who has been instrumental in the diplomacy that culminated in Tuesday's summit.

Kim Yo Jong, leader Kim's younger sister, was also spotted in his delegation. She emerged as an influential figure in Pyongyang's opaque leadership in February, when she led a North Korean delegation to in

Officials who arrived with Trump include Pompeo, John Bolton, and

Bolton's hardline rhetoric last month infuriated and nearly derailed the summit. He called for North Korea to follow a "model" in negotiations. unilaterally surrendered its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, but its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was killed in 2011 by NATO-backed rebels.

(Additional reporting by Jack Kim, Dewey Sim, Aradhana Aravindan, Joyce Lee, Grace Lee, Matt Spetalnick, David Brunnstrom; Christine Kim in SEOUL; Editing by and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, June 11 2018. 10:42 IST
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