(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –US and North Korean officials were in talks in Singapore on Monday in a late bid to narrow differences before their leaders hold an unprecedented summit meeting aimed at finding ways to end a nuclear stand-off on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump arrived in the tropical city-state on Sunday for the historic meeting, which will be the first time leaders of the two countries have come face-to-face.
Key gaps remain over what denuclearisation would entail for two countries that have been enemies since the 1950-1953 Korean War, and the officials were trying to push the agenda forward before the leaders meet on Tuesday.
Commenting for the first time on the agenda, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news 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 Korean peninsula and other issues of mutual concern,” KCNA said.
In the lead up to the summit, North Korea rejected any unilateral nuclear disarmament, and KCNA’s reference to denuclearisation of the peninsula has historically meant that Pyongyang wants the United States to remove its “nuclear umbrella” protecting South Korea and Japan.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is also in Singapore, said in a tweet that Washington 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 United States to ease the crippling sanctions that have squeezed the impoverished country.