U.S. and North Korea 'holding secret talks' ahead of meeting

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There was no immediate word on the possible venue for the talks, which would be the first ever between a sitting US president and North Korean leader.

"I confirm that the United States and North Korea have been holding talks in preparation for a summit, and that North Korea has confirmed its willingness to talk about de-nuclearisation", a National Security Council spokesperson told the FT.

"The U.S. has confirmed that Kim Jong Un is willing to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula", a U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

Analysts said the efforts show that the U.S. intelligence agencies are taking the lead for summit preparations.

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The White House said Trump expected Kim to take concrete "steps" prior to the meeting.

South Korea's presidential office said that the country's defense and foreign ministers and some other senior officials visited Panmunjom together on Friday.

The back-channel talks are the latest move in a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at resolving the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Former Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, who awaits Congressional confirmation for his appointment as a secretary of state.

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North Korea was "suffocating" under global sanctions, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said on Thursday, adding, "They need an out".

"But we can not say for certain that the United States counterpart in the North was Reconnaissance General Bureau. What we will see next is the exchanges of presidential envoys between the USA and North Korea".

CNN reports that Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, is also being considered as a potential meeting place.

Topping the agenda during the secret talks between the USA and North Korea was nailing down the location of the summit, with venues in a third country emerging as a strong candidate amid the skepticism about the meeting taking place either in Pyongyang or Washington.

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CNN, citing several administration officials familiar with the discussions, reported that Mr Trump agreed to the summit on the spot when visiting South Korean officials - South Korea's National Security Adviser Chung Eui Yong and intelligence chief Suh Hoon - presented him the invitation from Mr Kim early last month.