Prospects of U.S.-North Korea summit brighten after Trump's tweet

SEOUL/WASHINGTON, May 26 (Reuters) - Prospects that the United States and North Korea would hold a summit brightened after U.S. President Donald Trump said late on Friday Washington was having "productive talks" with Pyongyang about reinstating the June 12 meeting in Singapore.

Politico magazine reported that an advance team of 30 White House and State Department officials was preparing to leave for Singapore later this weekend.

Reuters reported earlier this week the team was scheduled to discuss the agenda and logistics for the summit with North Korean officials. The delegation was to include White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joseph Hagin and deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel, U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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A look at the day Trump cancelled the North Korea summit
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A look at the day Trump cancelled the North Korea summit
A man watches a television news screen showing US President Donald Trump (L) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (R), at a railway station in Seoul on May 25, 2018. - US President Donald Trump on May 24 called off his planned June summit with Kim Jong Un, blaming 'open hostility' from the North Korean regime and warning Pyongyang against committing any 'foolish or reckless acts.' (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
A letter from U.S. President Donald Trump to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un canceling their upcoming planned summit in Singapore is seen in this photo released by the White House in Washington, U.S. May 24, 2018. The White House via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
A commemorative coin released by the White House for a potential 'peace summit,' featuring the names and silhouettes of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader�Kim�Jung�Un, is displayed for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, May 24, 2018. Trump�canceled his planned�summit�with Kim Jong Un�that had been scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, citing 'tremendous anger and open hostility' in recent statements from Pyongyang. Photographer: Yuri Gripas/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A news editor in Washington, DC looks at the 'deal of the day' on the official website of the White House gift shop May 24, 2018 as the commemorative coin featuring US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un goes for USD 19.95 instead of the regular price of USD 24.95. - The price of the coin, struck by the White House Communications Agency ahead of the much anticipated US-North Korea summit meeting, seemed to lose value shortly after Trump called off the June 12, 2018 summit blaming 'tremenduous anger' and 'hostility' from the North Korean regime and warning Pyongyang against committing any 'foolish or reckless acts.' (Photo by Eva HAMBACH / AFP) (Photo credit should read EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 25: A man reads a newspaper at Seoul railway station on May 25, 2018 in Seoul, South Korea. The U.S. President Donald Trump called off the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that had been scheduled for June 12 in Singapore due to 'tremendous anger and open hostility' in recent statements from Pyongyang. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 25: People watch a TV report at Seoul railway station on May 25, 2018 in Seoul, South Korea. The U.S. President Donald Trump called off the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that had been scheduled for June 12 in Singapore due to 'tremendous anger and open hostility' in recent statements from Pyongyang. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
A man reads the front page of a newspaper at a railway station in Seoul on May 25, 2018 showing a picture of US President Donald Trump. - US President Donald Trump on May 24 called off his planned June summit with Kim Jong Un, blaming 'open hostility' from the North Korean regime and warning Pyongyang against committing any 'foolish or reckless acts.' (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
A man watches a television news showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (R) and US President Donald Trump (L), at a railway station in Seoul on May 24, 2018. - North Korea has dismantled its nuclear test site, media invited to attend the ceremony said on May 24, in a carefully choreographed move portrayed by the isolated regime as a goodwill gesture ahead of a potential summit next month with the US. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
A commemorative coin released by the White House for a potential 'peace summit,' featuring the names and silhouettes of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader�Kim�Jung�Un, is arranged photograph taken in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, May 24, 2018. Trump�canceled his planned�summit�with Kim Jong Un�that had been scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, citing 'tremendous anger and open hostility' in recent statements from Pyongyang. Photographer: Yuri Gripas/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Trump said in a Twitter post late on Friday: "We are having very productive talks about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date."

Trump had earlier indicated the summit could be salvaged after welcoming a conciliatory statement from North Korea saying it remained open to talks.

"It was a very nice statement they put out," Trump told reporters at the White House. "We'll see what happens - it could even be the 12th."

"We're talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We'd like to do it," he said.

The comments on the summit with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un came just a day after Trump canceled the meeting, citing Pyongyang's "open hostility."

South Korea's presidential spokesman said in response: "It's fortunate that hope is still alive for U.S.-North Korea dialog. We are continuing to watch developments carefully."

 

THREATS, INSULTS

After years of tension over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program, Kim and Trump agreed this month to hold what would be the first meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader. The plan followed months of war threats and insults between the leaders over North Korea's development of missiles capable of reaching the United States.

Trump scrapped the meeting in a letter to Kim on Thursday after repeated threats by North Korea to pull out over what it saw as confrontational remarks by U.S. officials demanding unilateral disarmament. Trump cited North Korean hostility in canceling the summit.

In Pyongyang, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said North Korea's criticisms had been a reaction to American rhetoric and that current antagonism showed "the urgent necessity" for the summit.

He said North Korea regretted Trump's decision to cancel and remained open to resolving issues "regardless of ways, at any time."

Kim Kye Gwan said North Korea had appreciated Trump having made the bold decision to work toward a summit.

"We even inwardly hoped that what is called 'Trump formula' would help clear both sides of their worries and comply with the requirements of our side and would be a wise way of substantial effect for settling the issue," he said.

North Korea also went ahead with a plan to destroy its only known nuclear site on Thursday, the most concrete action yet since pledging to cease all nuclear and long-range missile tests last month.

Dozens of international journalists left North Korea on Saturday after observing the demolition of the underground tunnels in Punggye-ri, where all of the North's six nuclear tests were conducted including its latest and largest in September.

 

DIPLOMATS AT WORK

Trump's latest about-face sent officials scrambling in Washington. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters diplomats were "still at work" and said Trump had just sent a note out on the summit, which could be back on "if our diplomats can pull it off."

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Katina Adams declined to give details of any diplomatic contacts but said: "As the president said in his letter to Chairman Kim, dialog between the two is the only dialog that matters. If North Korea is serious, then we look forward to hearing from them at the highest levels."

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters Trump did not want a meeting that was "just a political stunt."

"He wants to get something that's a long-lasting and an actual real solution. And if they are ready to do that then ... we're certainly ready to have those conversations," she said.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton in WASHINGTON and Joori Roh in SEOUL, Additional reporting by Soyoung Kim in SEOUL, Doina Chiacu, Idrees Ali, David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in WASHINGTON Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan Editing by Paul Tait and Joseph Radford)

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