SEOUL • Confronting growing doubts about whether a planned meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would take place, a South Korean official said there was a "99.9 per cent" chance of it happening.
Speaking to reporters aboard South Korea's Air Force One on Monday, Mr Chung Eui Yong, a national security adviser to President Moon Jae In, played down recent reports that Mr Trump had become nervous about meeting Mr Kim in Singapore on June 12.
"We have perceived none of that," Mr Chung said, countering a New York Times report that cited Trump administration officials as saying that Mr Trump has begun pressing his aides and allies about whether he should take the risk of proceeding with the meeting.
Asked whether Mr Trump and Mr Kim would meet as agreed, Mr Chung called it a "99.9 per cent done deal".
But Mr Trump last night was coy about whether the meeting will go on as scheduled.
"If it does not happen, maybe it will happen later," Mr Trump said, as he began talks with President Moon at the White House.
Mr Trump also said he believes Mr Kim is "serious" about denuclearisation. "I do think he is serious. I think he is absolutely very serious." He said the White House was continuing preparations for the summit.
Just weeks after Mr Kim declared a "new history" and an "era of peace" at an April summit with Mr Moon, Pyongyang abruptly cancelled high-level talks with Seoul and threatened to so the same for the Singapore meeting.
Just weeks after Mr Kim declared a "new history" and an "era of peace" at an April summit with Mr Moon, Pyongyang abruptly cancelled high-level talks with Seoul and threatened to do the same for the Singapore meeting.
The regime cited long-planned US-South Korea military exercises and lambasted Mr Trump's national security adviser John Bolton, who has advocated a "Libya model" of arms control. The Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi surrendered his nuclear programme in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions, but was overthrown and killed two years later.
North Korea has also revoked its invitation for South Korean reporters to visit the North and watch the closing of its nuclear test site this week. A plane left Beijing yesterday carrying US and other foreign journalists who were invited by the North Korean government.
Mr Moon must try to convince Mr Trump during their meeting today that it is worth proceeding with the Kim summit.
The biggest sticking point appears to be the definition of denuclearisation: US officials have repeatedly said they expect North Korea to accept "complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament". Pyongyang seeks a phased process that could include reduced US military presence in the region.
"Moon could appeal to Trump that he can see the completion of North Korea's denuclearisation within his term," said Dr Yoo Ho Yeol, who teaches North Korean studies at Korea University in South Korea.
Mr Moon Chung In, a special adviser to the South Korean President, said Mr Moon may serve as a mediator. "His objective is to narrow the gap, if any, on the scope, contents, methods, and timing of denuclearising North Korea" between Mr Trump and Mr Kim, the adviser said.
The US remains hopeful about the June summit but has not made concessions in advance of the historic meeting, Vice-President Mike Pence told Fox News Radio yesterday. "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," said Mr Pence, who tweeted a day earlier: "It would be a great mistake for Kim Jong Un to think he could play @POTUS Trump."