WASHINGTON: The US is moving forward with the preparations for the June 12 Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, expecting the historic meeting to take place, but is prepared for other eventualities too, the White House said today.
The comments come at a time when the White House is engaged in hectic talks with Pyongyang, Tokyo and Seoul.
"We're moving forward, and we'll be prepared either way. And we're planning as if it is happening. We're expecting that to take place.
But we'll be prepared, and that's what we're going to do right now is focus on the preparation side," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters in a press gaggle abroad Air Force One.
US President Donald Trump, she said, thinks that the ongoing discussions are going very well and that the meetings taking place over this week are certainly signs of progress.
In April, Trump had stunned the world by accepting an invitation to meet Kim in an unprecedented sit-down.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be at the White House next week for talks with Trump in this regard, she said.
North Korean Vice Chairman of the Central Committee Kim Yong-chol is arriving in New York and will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later this week.
"Secretary looks forward to his meetings. He will be heading up to New York tomorrow," State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters at her bi-weekly news conference.
A US delegation is meeting with the North Korean delegation in the DMZ or demilitarized zone.
The United States delegation consists of Sung Kim, US Ambassador to the Philippines, Allison Hooker, Director of Korea for the National Security Council, and Randy Schriver, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs at the Department of Defence.
"They plan to have additional meetings later this week," Nauert said.
Separately, Joe Hagen, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, and the US pre-advance team, including members from the State Department, are in Singapore this week, where they are conducting logistics of the expected summit.
"We're looking forward to participating in those meetings as we prepare for President Trump's summit in June," she said.
Senator Edward Markey, Ranking Member of the East Asia Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said it is encouraging that talks with North Korea are back on track after last week's "unforced diplomatic error".
"Now, the focus must remain on tangibly reducing the threat from North Korean nuclear weapons, not simply producing a made-for-TV summit.
The Trump administration cannot fall for false concessions, long the bread and butter of the Kim family's negotiating approach," he said.
Markey said the US must continue to push for sustained talks to reach a diplomatic resolution backed by economic pressure, but added that the country must be prepared to further ratchet up the economic pressure if the negotiations fail.
He noted there was no military solution to the North Korean threat.
"It is unclear whether the regime in Pyongyang has felt the force of sanctions, so we must seriously question whether we have actually compelled North Korea to the table, ready to genuinely denuclearize," he said.
The Congress must be prepared to impose stricter measures, if necessary, including on China, which is the primary enabler of the Kim regime, Markey said.