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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

North Korea still committed to 'complete' denuclearisation

Conciliatory declarations follow a surprise meeting between North and South 

President Moon Jae-in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their meeting on May 26, 2018 in Panmunjom, North Korea. Mr Kim says he is committed to "complete" denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and to a landmark summit with US President Donald Trump. South Korean Presidential Blue House / via Getty Images
President Moon Jae-in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their meeting on May 26, 2018 in Panmunjom, North Korea. Mr Kim says he is committed to "complete" denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and to a landmark summit with US President Donald Trump. South Korean Presidential Blue House / via Getty Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is committed to "complete" denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and to a landmark summit with US President Donald Trump, South Korea's leader said on Sunday, as Mr Trump announced that plans for the meeting are moving along "very nicely".

The latest conciliatory declarations capped a turbulent few days of diplomatic brinkmanship that had sent tensions soaring.

Mr Trump rattled a sabre on Thursday by cancelling the planned June 12 meeting with Mr Kim in Singapore, citing "open hostility" from Pyongyang.

But within 24 hours he reversed course, saying it could still go ahead after productive talks were held with North Korean officials.

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"It's moving along very nicely," Mr Trump told reporters when asked for an update. "We're looking at June 12 in Singapore. That hasn't changed."

Mr Trump's unpredictability sparked a surprise meeting on Saturday between Mr Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in – only the fourth time leaders from the two countries have ever met – as they scrambled to get the talks back on track.

Pictures showed them shaking hands and embracing on the North Korean side of the Demilitarised Zone separating the two nations.

Mr Moon said Mr Kim reached out to him to arrange the hasty meeting "without any formality", a stunning development given that the Koreas only reopened a defunct hotline between the two nations last month.

Also on Sunday, two US Navy warships sailed near the South China Sea islands claimed by China, two US officials said, in a move that is likely to anger Beijing as Mr Trump seeks its continued co-operation with North Korea.

The US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Higgins guided-missile destroyer and the Antietam, a guided-missile cruiser, came within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbours.

The US military vessels carried out maneuvering operations near Tree, Lincoln, Triton and Woody islands in the Paracels, one of the officials said.

Earlier on Sunday in a gesture of diplomacy China's Foreign Ministry said it hoped a summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim, originally set for Singapore next month, could happen as planned and be successful.

Direct dialogue between the leaders of the United States and North Korea is crucial to resolving the nuclear issue, the ministry said.

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