US envoy back from North Korea after talks on Trump-Kim summit

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While Trump has hailed "tremendous progress" in his dealings with North Korea, a confidential report by United Nations sanctions monitors seen by Reuters this week cast further doubt on North Korea's intentions.

The Koreas in past months have discussed reconnecting railways and roads across their border, resuming operations at a jointly run factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and restarting South Korean tours to the North's Diamond Mountain resort.

President Donald Trump said on Friday that US diplomats had a "very productive meeting" with North Korean officials, and he announced his summit later this month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would be held in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi. On one hand, United States negotiator Stephen Biegun announced that the North had pledged to destroy all its nuclear enrichment facilities.

The U.S. special representative to North Korea Stephen Biegun met with Kim Hyok Chol, Pyongyang's former envoy to Spain, earlier this week in Pyongyang to discuss arrangements for the summit.

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But a report to the UN Security Council on Monday suggested North Korea was continuing its nuclear and missiles programmes, while making efforts to protect its facilities from possible future strike. The Japanese prime minister has voiced his readiness to meet with the North Korean leader in person in an attempt to achieve a breakthrough on his top priority issue.

The omission in the State Department memo of any mention of discussions between Biegun and Kim over the next leader-level summit may indicate that talks mainly centered on what many experts are hoping will be preparations for a substantive bilateral agreement.

Trump stressed through Twitter this morning that North Korea will become a great economic powerhouse, again encouraging the regime to denuclearize. He is expected to brief South Korean officials about his visit to North Korea over the weekend.

The Singapore summit yielded a vague commitment by Kim to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, where US troops have been stationed since the Korean War.

Trump had branded the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "Little Rocket Man" and later told Fox News's Sean Hannity it was part of a strategy to bring Kim to the table. Japan's Fuji TV quoted Vietnamese government sources as saying that Trump administration officials arrived in Da Nang on Wednesday afternoon. "President is very much looking forward to taking next steps".

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