Copyright/AFP/ Image Caption: Stephen Biegun briefed South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on his visit to the North

The US envoy for North Korea has returned from Pyongyang, where he held talks to prepare for a second US-North Korean leadership summit.

Stephen Biegun spent three days in discussions, and US officials said he would meet his counterpart again.

US President Donald Trump confirmed he would meet North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, Vietnam, on 27-28 February.

Mr. Trump said his representatives had a “productive meeting” and that he was looking forward to advancing peace.

 


President Trump tweeted that “North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, will become a great Economic Powerhouse,” something that, the president added, came as no surprise to him “because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is”.

Meanwhile, the UN has warned that North Korea is continuing its nuclear programme and breaking sanctions.

In a report earlier this week, it said actions including the illegal transfer of banned goods at sea could make sanctions – the international community’s main way of putting pressure on North Korea – “ineffective”.

The first summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore last June generated significant coverage and optimism, but delivered very few concrete developments.

Both sides said they were committed to denuclearisation, but with no details of how this would be carried out or verified.

AFP/ Image Caption: The first Kim-Trump summit was big on handshakes and rhetoric but low on detail

Experts caution that despite Mr. Trump’s declaration that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat, the country has never said it would give up its nuclear weapons programme without similar concessions from the US.

Before travelling to Pyongyang on Wednesday, Mr. Biegun said he wanted to achieve some “concrete deliverables”.

But a report to the UN Security Council on Monday suggested North Korea was continuing its nuclear and missiles programmes, while making efforts to protect its facilities from possible future strike.

The confidential report, a copy of which was seen by news agencies, also said North Korea was routinely breaking international sanctions.

The report said there had been a “massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal” – where material is moved from non-North Korean ships out at sea to evade monitoring.

The international sanctions against North Korea are designed to severely limit its import and export abilities, with the aim of putting pressure on the country to give up its nuclear ambitions.

But Reuters quoted the report as saying that violations on this scale “render the latest UN sanctions ineffective”.

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