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High Hopes

The U.S. and North Korea are holding 'behind-the-scenes talks' for a 3rd Trump-Kim summit, Seoul says

There has been speculation that a recent series of letters between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — Trump called Kim's "beautiful" while Kim dubbed Trump's "excellent" — might lead to a third summit between the two leaders, after the second summit ended in February with no progress on denuclearization. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday that in fact U.S. and North Korean officials are holding "behind-the-scenes talks" to arrange a third summit, in an unspecified time and place. He didn't say if the talks were face-to-face or who participated.

"There's no reason to regard the current situation as a stalemate in the peace process on the peninsula just because the pace has remained slow," Moon wrote in response to questions from seven news organizations, including The Associated Press. "Complete denuclearization and a permanent peace regime on the peninsula are tasks that cannot be achieved overnight." Trump is traveling to Japan for a G20 summit on Friday, before heading to South Korea to meet with Moon, and "he is reportedly considering a visit to the demilitarized zone that divides the two Korea," CNN reports, citing a South Korean government official.

Earlier Wednesday, North Korea's foreign ministry slammed the U.S. for having "viciously slandered" Pyongyang by suggesting its sanctions will "bring us to our knees." The foreign ministry's statement criticized Secretary of State Mike Pompeo but not Trump, even referring to the president "as the 'supreme leader' of the United States," mirroring Kim's title in North Korea, CNN notes.

The foreign ministry is trying to distinguish the Kim-Trump "bromance from the relationship between their two countries," Duyeon Kim, an analyst at the Center for a New American Security, suggested to CNN. "It sounds like they're sending a warning to Washington, almost as if to manage expectations ahead of a third summit, while making an appeal to Trump to basically put a straitjacket on his staff."