‘Kim Jong Un’ poses for selfies in Singapore

Alex Brandon  AP

Alex Brandon AP

South Korean media say a senior North Korean official is heading to the United States, potentially to participate in preparatory negotiations to set up a possible meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump also said he sees "brilliant potential" in Pyongyang. Kim Jong Un agrees with me on this.

Yonhap said it is "widely expected" that Kim Yong-chol would travel to the US "to reciprocate recent visits" by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

It's not really North Korean leader Kim Jong-un walking the streets of Singapore awaiting talks with President Trump in anticipation of their on-again-off-again-on-again summit on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but he sure is a convincing look-alike.

United States and North Korean officials are set to meet in Singapore on Tuesday to discuss security and protocol issues concerning a possible summit between their leaders, a diplomatic source here said.

Nauert provided no further details.

Kim, in a telling line from a dispatch issued by the North's state-run news service earlier Sunday, "expressed his fixed will on the historic (North Korea)-U.S. summit talks".

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The North hasn't openly repeated those same demands after Kim's sudden outreach to Seoul and Washington.

Also in the group were Allison Hooker, the National Security Council's expert on Korea, and an unnamed Defense Department official. "We continue to prepare for a meeting between the president and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un".

In a phone call on Monday, Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe affirmed the "shared imperative of achieving the complete and permanent dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs".

Mr Trump told reporters at the White House during a meeting with a U.S. prisoner freed by Venezuela: "It's moving along very nicely".

The results of this week's parallel talks are likely to dictate whether the June 12 summit between Trump and Kim is possible, according to a United States official familiar with the ongoing deliberations. The South Korean presidential office said later in a text message that Seoul is "just considering the possibility" of such a meeting and "at a working level". Once he sees that Trump is willing to bully the Chinese a little bit, then I think Kim will actually start to play ball with us.

But without a clear plan of objectives, the talks could leave the U.S.in a worse position than if it holds off on the talks.

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"What is unclear to Chairman Kim Jong Un is not the will for denuclearisation, but the concern that if (North Korea) denuclearises, whether the U.S. can end hostile relations and guarantee the security of the (Kim) regime", Mr Moon said.

The White House said a "pre-advance" team was travelling to Singapore to meet with North Koreans.

American officials are sceptical Mr Kim would ever fully abandon his nuclear arsenal, and Mr Moon said North Korea was not yet convinced it can trust security guarantees from the United States. Analysts said the pressure from the top makes a meeting more likely.

Across Asia, administration officials have been dispatched to carry out Trump's directive.

The general has always been a right hand man to North Korea's leader, playing a front-seat role during recent rounds of diplomacy aimed at ending the nuclear stalemate on the Korean peninsula.

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