South Korea, US push to hold working-level video talks

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The White Paper's evaluation of North Korea's nuclear capabilities remains the same as that of 2016.

Asked about the prospect of Kim Yong Chol visiting Washington for the second time in less than a year, the U.S. State Department demurred, telling The Japan Times that it did not have any meetings to announce. It still said the North's weapons of mass destruction are a "threat to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula", a reference to the North's missile and nuclear program.

The CNN previously reported that USA scouting teams had visited Bangkok, Hanoi and Hawaii as they search for a location for the second summit.

The Pentagon assessment has injected fresh skepticism into an already fragile diplomatic process as Kim Yong Chol, Pyongyang's former spymaster who has served as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's counterpart in talks with the United States, arrived in the U.S. capital.

There has been no indication, however, of any narrowing of differences over USA demands that North Korea abandon a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States or Pyongyang's demand for a lifting of punishing sanctions.

That meeting yielded a pledge from the latter to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and Trump declared the next day that there was "no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea".

Kim Jong Un also said he would be looking to "achieve results" in any talks with Trump when he traveled to China for his fourth summit with President Xi Jinping. While the regime has said they have shut down a missile engine test site and a nuclear test facility, those steps have not been verified by global inspectors, despite Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying in October that inspectors would be allowed in "as soon as we get it logistically worked out". He is widely expected to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who himself has travelled to North Korea on numerous occasions.

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Kim mentioned the Wonsan-Kalma project in his key New Year speech and 38 North said the push on the development showed "a desire to demonstrate that North Korea, despite the economic sanctions in place, has an economy that is moving forward and showing signs of prosperity".

Meanwhile another senior North Korean official, vice-foreign minister Choe Son-hui, is heading to Sweden, where she could meet Washington's special representative for Pyongyang Stephen Biegun, reports say.

Some are suspicious of the timing of Kim Yong Chol's Washington visit.

But given that Kim Jong-un's letter is reportedly on its way, .it's highly likely that Kim Yong-chol will meet Trump. "We and our allies can not missile defense our way out of vulnerability to North Korea's nuclear missiles", Reif said.

"We're getting along fine".

Last year, North Korea "heightened its worldwide influence and it had received a great support, understanding, and fervent welcome from the whole world", KCNA noted. Instead, it seems, Pompeo's meeting with Kim Yong Chol has only been rescheduled because Kim may be able to meet with Trump as well. The North has been demanding that the U.S. lift harsh sanctions and provide it with security guarantees before it takes any steps beyond its initial suspension of nuclear and missile tests.

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