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Donald Trump meets South Korean President Moon at White House logo 5/22/2018

The US president has welcomed South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss the denuclearization of North Korea. The meeting comes amid concerns that Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim next month might collapse.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived at the White House at noon EDT (1600 GMT) for a meeting and a working lunch with US President Donald Trump to strategize about upcoming talks between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month.

As talks began, US President Donald Trump said that he believed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was "serious" about denuclearization. But Trump evaded questions about whether the landmark summit between the US and North Korea would go ahead as planned on June 12.

"I do think he is serious. I think he is absolutely very serious," Trump said, amid fears that apparent North Korean backpedaling could scupper the Singapore summit.

"It may not work out for June 12. If it does not happen, maybe it will happen later," Trump added. Moon meanwhile commented that Trump had been able to achieve dramatic positive change with North Korea, and that he remained confident that Trump would be able to make the upcoming summit successful.

Before seeing Trump, Moon met briefly with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, urging them to speed up preparations to make the Trump-Kim summit succeed.

"We South Korean people... expect much from you. Please take care of us," Moon said, according to a South Korean government statement.

Read more: Trump promises 'strong' protections for denuclearized North Korea

Prospect of Trump-Kim meeting unsure

North Korea's criticism last week about the latest US-South Korean military drills threw the summit between Trump and Kim into doubt. Some US officials have privately expressed concerns that Moon may have overstated Kim's willingness to negotiate the dismantling of his nuclear arsenal, and that the talks in Singapore on June 12 could fail before they started.

Moon's national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, meanwhile told reporters that he believed there was "a 99.9 percent chance" that the Trump-Kim summit would still go ahead, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Earlier on Tuesday, about two dozen journalists from Western and Chinese news organizations arrived in North Korea to witness the planned closure of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. The move is seen as a good-will gesture and an indication that the summit between Trump and Kim is likely to go ahead as planned as well.

However, the North did ban South Korean journalists from the trip to the nuclear site following the US-South Korean military drills last week.

Denuclearization at the heart of talks

© Reuters/J. Ernst

Meanwhile US Vice President Mike Pence said that the United States remained hopeful about a planned summit with North Korea taking place but stressed that the US had not made any concessions in advance of the historic meeting to discuss North Korea's denuclearization.

Pence said on Fox News Radio that plans "continue to go forward for a summit. We remain open to it, we remain hopeful. But let me very clear: nothing has changed about the policy of the United States of America. There have been no concessions offered and none given."

Most analysts say it is unrealistic to believe that North Korea would agree to complete abandonment of its nuclear program. While Moon may be prepared to accept a less-stringent version of North Korean denuclearization, Washington continues to push for complete nuclear disarmament.

ss/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)


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