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Trump, Kim plan second meeting in February

Saul Loeb, AFP | (FILES) In this file photo taken on June 12, 2018, US President Donald Trump (R) meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un (L) at the start of their US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore.
Saul Loeb, AFP | (FILES) In this file photo taken on June 12, 2018, US President Donald Trump (R) meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un (L) at the start of their US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore. AFP/Saul Loeb

US President Donald Trump is to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a second summit late February, the White House says, after a top general from Pyongyang paid a rare visit to Washington.

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Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol, a right-hand man to the North Korean strongman, met the embattled president at the White House for an unusually long 90 minutes as the countries seek a denuclearisation accord that could ease decades of hostility.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that Trump – who has opined that he and Kim Jong Un fell "in love" after last year's landmark first summit – would again meet the North Korean leader "near the end of February" at a location to be announced later.

The flurry of diplomacy comes little more than a year after Trump was threatening to wipe North Korea off the map, with Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests rattling nerves in East Asia.

Sanders praised North Korea's efforts to reconcile but ruled out, for now, a key demand of Pyongyang – a lifting of sanctions.

"The United States is going to continue to keep pressure and sanctions on North Korea until we see fully and verified denuclearisation," Sanders told reporters.

Results or photo-op?

Kim Jong Un and Trump first met in June in Singapore, where they signed a vaguely worded document in which Kim pledged to work toward the "denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula."

But progress stalled soon afterward as Pyongyang and Washington -- which stations 28,500 troops in South Korea -- disagree over what that means.

Critics say that the Singapore summit was little more than a photo-op. The second round with the young and elusive North Korean leader will again offer a change of headlines for Trump amid a barrage of scandalous allegations and a political deadlock that has shut down the US government.

Kim Yong Chol is the first North Korean dignitary in nearly two decades to spend a night in Washington, staying at a fashionable hotel a short drive from the White House.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed Kim at the hotel, posing briefly for pictures near a shelf with a framed portrait of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., and later invited the delegation to lunch.

The State Department said that Stephen Biegun, the US special representative on North Korea, would carry on discussions at a conference in Sweden starting on Saturday that will involve Pyongyang officials.

(with AFP)

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