DPdiy paper wristbandsRK top brass to meet Pompeo

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Kim Yong-chol (center), a senior official of the Democratic People"s Republic of Korea, leaves a hotel in New York, where he arrived on Wednesday in the highest-level official visit of the DPRK to the United States in 18 years. [Photo/Agencies]

"Potential summit" will be one issue on agenda at New York meeting

When US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with a top official from the Democratic People"s Republic of Korea in New York on Thursday, they may try to narrow their gap on "denuclearization of the peninsula", the substance of a possible summit planned in Singapore on June 12.

As Washington and Pyongyang officials prepared their first encounter in New York on Wednesday evening, the US secretary of state apparently had the Trump administration"s demands in mind.

"Looking forward to meeting with Kim Yong Chol in New York to discuss @Potus potential summit with Chairman Kim. We are committed to the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula @StateDept," Pompeo said in a Twitter post.

Pompeo is expected to have "a day full of meetings" on Thursday after a dinner in New York with Kim Yong-chol, vice-chairman of the DPRK"s ruling Workers" Party of Korea Central Committee on Wednesday, according to White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

Speaking at a regular briefing on Wednesday, Sanders said the US" focus is going to be on "total denuclearization of the peninsula and verifiable confirmation of that".

She said that a US delegation, led by US veteran diplomat Sung Kim, met with the DPRK officials at the Demilitarized Zone on Wednesday, when a US advance team also met with a DPRK team in Singapore.

Sanders said that the ongoing conversations centered on the "denuclearization of the peninsula".

However, the definition of denuclearizing, as understood by the US and the DPRK, is "very different at least until now", according to Sue Mi Terry, senior fellow and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

During his unofficial visit to Beijing in late March, DPRK"s top leader Kim Jong-un said it is his country"s "consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula".

"Every time we talk about denuclearization of North Korea, we"re talking about unilateral dismantlement of North Korea"s nuclear weapons program," Terry said in a discussion on Wednesday.

The "unilateral dismantlement" is exactly what the DPRK is opposed to. Two weeks ago, DPRK"s first vice-minister of foreign affairs, Kim Kye-gwan, said, "If the US is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue."

"Obviously, the US and North Korea have very - were very far apart when we were talking about denuclearization," Terry said. "So we"ll see if Pompeo and Kim Yong-chol and all this diplomacy right now, if we are able to narrow that gap by the time that Trump sits down with Kim Jong-un."

In the podcast discussion, Andrew Schwartz, the CSIS" chief communications officer, noted that initially President Trump said he wanted rapid denuclearization. Now he was saying there might be a phased denuclearization.

Terry said that was because rapid denuclearization was "just very unrealistic", and the so-called "Libya model" of denuclearization for the DPRK, a notion expressed earlier by Trump"s National Security Advisor John Bolton, met strong opposition.

"So I think what the US will settle for is at least a big down payment up front and then go through the sort of phased approach," she said.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon also said on Wednesday that there remained a big difference between Pyongyang and Washington over how to make the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free.

"It will not be easy to narrow the gap and find common ground, but I think it would not be impossible," he said during an address in Seoul, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Admitting that there were many difficulties yet to be overcome in denuclearizing the peninsula, Cho said Pyongyang"s commitment to denuclearization was clear, citing the stop of nuclear and missile tests, the demolition of a nuclear test site, and the second summit meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and DPRK"s top leader Kim on Saturday, according to a Xinhua report.