S. Korea to ease China over USA, N. Korea talks

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis meets visits the Trấn Quốc Pagoda during a visit to Hanoi Vietnam on Jan. 25 2018

Asked if the North Korean silence meant there was a chance the meeting between Trump and Kim would not take place, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: "We fully expect that it will". Last year Washington and Pyongyang traded unusually strong threats - North Korea threatened to strike the USA territory of Guam while Trump promised to respond with "fire and fury".

Mongolia's capital city, Ulaanbaatar, has been the site of past sensitive negotiations with North Koreans, maintains friendly relations with both sides, and has little in the way of political baggage. However, Kim's time in the West is not an officially acknowledged part of his biography and analysts say he may want to avoid drawing attention to that period in socialist and impoverished North Korea. Under Kim Jong-un, ties with the USA have gone from bad to worse, leading to open fears of conflict.

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"Most of that is an inter-administration, interagency process and I'm not going to get ahead of any of the details of the where, the when, or any of that here today", she said, responding to a series of questions on the meeting between the two leaders.

Nonetheless, she cautioned that if approached incorrectly, a diplomatic effort ending in failure could become a "pretense" for war.

The US and South Korea hold military maneuvers every year.

Kim Sang-duk, 59, also known as Tony Kim, spent a month teaching accounting at the foreign-funded Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) before he was detained at Pyongyang International Airport in April 2017 while trying to leave the country. It could be that Trump's policy of talking tough, combined with years of economic sanctions, has yielded dividends and Kim will put abandoning his nuclear programme on the table. "It's very early stages", Tillerson said. A location has not been decided for the North Korea-U.S. summit while Kim Jong Un and Moon will meet at the truce village of Panmunjom straddling the border between the two Koreas.

"With respect to the ongoing discussions about a potential meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, as you know it's a very recent development", Tillerson cautioned reporters during a stop in Nigeria on Monday.

At its height, Kaesong employed 55,000 North Korean workers in South Korean-owned factories, turning out products from toys to textiles and providing the North with hard currency.

Kim could face similar problems traveling to the United States, where no North Korean leader has visited, making many observers think a more neutral setting will need to be found.



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