Foreign Media Head to North Korea to Cover Nuclear Test Site Shutdown

South Korean President Moon Jae-in | Pool

South Korean President Moon Jae-in | Pool

However, the improving diplomatic environment has hit a rocky patch, with North Korea threatening to pull out of a summit meeting between leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Singapore planned for June 12.

No one is so optimistic anymore that Trump can convince North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear weapon program.

Yet, in the lead-up to the Singapore summit, Trump and Bolton have gratuitously referred to the "Libya model" in the specific context of North Korea. Could it turn into an embarrassment? Kim had earlier cited the fate that Gadhafi and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein met when they renounced the nuclear-weapons option. But the president has reportedly spent the weekend agonizing over the decision. Pyongyang also canceled a high-level meeting with officials from Seoul.

Al Jazeera's Kimberly Halkett reports from Washington, DC. No global verification was conducted because all of those countries are nuclear weapons states approved by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The biggest sticking point appears to be the definition of denuclearization: USA officials have repeatedly said they expect North Korea to accept "complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament", while Pyongyang is seeking a phased process that could include a reduced US military presence in the region.

Neither Seoul nor Washington would comment on the details of the weekend conversation.

"We expect the South Korea-U.S. summit to play a role as a bridge (between the U.S. and North Korea) that will lead to the success of the North Korea-U.S. summit as it comes three weeks before the North Korea-U.S. summit", said Nam Gwan-pyo, a deputy director of the presidential National Security Office.

A North Korean flight carrying worldwide press set to cover the dismantlement of Punggye-ri nuclear test ground left Beijing for Wonsan on Tuesday morning without a group of South Korean reporters originally invited to attend the event.

At least some of this praise seems to have come at the behest of Trump himself, according to USA officials, suggesting that the American president is eager for a diplomatic win ahead of unfavorable odds in midterm elections.

Observers in South Korea say no one should be surprised by all the conflicting signals.

Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has departed for Washington to hold talks with his U.S. counterpart and meet with high-ranking administration officials responsible for foreign policy and security issues.

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Now the focus may be on keeping the Trump-Kim meeting alive.

More fundamentally, it appears odd that the Trump administration does not recognize the contradiction between wanting to blow up the Iran nuclear deal and, at the same time, pressing North Korea to sign a nuclear deal.

"For Moon, it's mission impossible", Kazianis said.

Moon was scheduled to meet with ranking US officials prior to his bilateral meeting with Trump, according to officials from his presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, in an apparent attempt to again convince Trump's aides that North Korea may be serious about giving up its nuclear ambitions. About 28,000 American forces are based in South Korea.

"I think the main plot now involves the United States and North Korea".

When Gadhafi was captured, tortured and murdered by NATO-aided rebels, with a video showing him being sodomized with a knife before his execution, then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton exulted in a live TV interview. But Trump also suggested Kim risks being overthrown and possibly death if the arsenal remains. But even some of his advisers worry he would settle for much less just for the sake of a deal he can flaunt, perhaps with the goal of a Nobel Peace Prize that, as he puts it, "everyone thinks" he deserves.

USA officials said preparations for the summit were still underway despite recent pessimism - and privately suggested there would be additional public maneuvering as both sides seek to maximize their leverage.

Since March, Kim has also been warming up to Beijing. North Korea has rejected unilateral disarmament and given no indication that it is willing to go beyond statements of broad support for the concept of universal denuclearisation. Those sanctions continue for now, though Washington is anxious China has relaxed enforcement along the frontier between the two countries.

"China must continue to be strong & tight on the Border of North Korea until a deal is made".

Indeed, the relationship between Beijing and Pyongyang seems much more amicable.

Many experts on North Korea have expressed alarm over the speed of negotiations and Trump's reported unwillingness to be briefed on some key issues.

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