US-North Korea nuclear talks get underway

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Trump Korea

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korea's Kim Yong Chol have met for talks in New York

High-ranking officials of the US and North Korea have met in New York in the first of two days of talks about the future of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program and a possible summit between President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jung Un.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol, a close aide of North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, met for about 90 minutes over dinner and left without providing any detailed remarks to reporters waiting outside.

Pompeo would only say the dinner "was great" and the men dined on "American beef".

It was not yet known whether they made any progress toward narrowing long-standing differences between Washington and Pyongyang that could end decades of hostile relations.

Earlier on Wednesday, the White House left open the possibility of a Trump-Kim summit on June 12 in Singapore despite Trump's cancellation of the meeting just days ago.

As the dinner was underway inside an apartment on New York's East Side, just south of the United Nations, a senior State Department official separately briefed reporters on the high-level talks that were underway.

Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol, vice-chairman of the ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee, "are trying to get to know each other" following their two initial meetings this year in North Korea, the US official said.

The official said that before any summit between the two leaders could occur, Pyongyang was "going to have to make clear what they are willing to do" amid demands from Washington that North Korea permanently end its nuclear weapons program.

Trump, the official said, "can make a fly or no-fly decision anytime he wants", referring to the possible unprecedented Singapore summit.

If not enough progress is made to lead to a productive meeting between Trump and Kim Jung Un, the official said: "We will ramp up the pressure on them and we'll be ready for the day that hopefully they are ready."

Trump last week called off the summit after North Korea expressed anger at comments by senior US officials but Trump later said he was reconsidering his position and US, North Korean and South Korean officials have gone ahead with summit preparations.

The White House said negotiations at the demilitarised zone along the border between North and South Korea for the summit were going well.

China, North Korea's main trading partner and a key ally, said it supported and encouraged the "emerging good faith" between the US and North Korea.

"At the same time as working to achieve the goal of denuclearisation, we should also build long-term and effective initiatives to keep peace on the Korean peninsula," China's foreign ministry Hua Chunying said in Beijing on Thursday.