Top Kim aide in Singapore for summit preparations

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Kim Chang Son, steps out of the Fullerton hotel in Singapore yesterday. Xinhua

TOKYO (Reuters) – A top aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Singapore on Monday night in the latest indication that the on-again-off-again summit with US President Donald Trump is going ahead.

Kim Chang Son, Kim’s de facto chief of staff, flew to Singapore via Beijing on Monday night.

At the same time, a team of US government officials, including the White House deputy chief of staff for operations Joe Hagin, left US Yokota Air Base in Japan for Singapore on Monday, NHK said.

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The White House said a “pre-advance” team was traveling to Singapore to meet with North Koreans.

The reports indicate that planning for the historic summit, initially scheduled for June 12, is moving ahead after Trump called it off last week. A day later, Trump said he had reconsidered, and officials from both countries were meeting to work out details.

In a flurry of diplomacy over the weekend, Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a surprise meeting on Saturday at the border village of Panmunjom, during which they agreed the North Korea-US summit must be held.

Moon said there could be more impromptu talks between the two Koreas in the lead-up to the summit.

And on Sunday, the US State Department said American and North Korean officials had met at Panmunjom.

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North Korea defends its nuclear and missile programmes as a deterrent against perceived aggression by the US, which keeps 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

It has long said it is open to eventually giving up its nuclear arsenal if the US withdraws its troops from South Korea and ends its “nuclear umbrella” alliance with Seoul.

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