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U.S.-North Korean Officials Proceed On A Path To Make Summit Happen


President Trump is getting an unusual delivery today. A top North Korean official is going to hand him a letter from North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un. It is the latest step in this dance between the U.S. and North Korea over whether Kim and Trump will hold a summit in Singapore later this month. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held meetings with the senior official. His name is Kim Yong Chol. They met in New York this week. And Pompeo said they made real progress toward creating the conditions for a summit.


MIKE POMPEO: Many conversations have been had about how we might perceive what the path might be forward so that we can achieve both the denuclearization that the world demands of North Korea and the security assurances that would be required for them to allow us to achieve that.

MARTIN: But they're not quite there yet. NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe joins us to talk more. Hi, Ayesha.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Where do things stand? I realize that's a big question, but do your best.

RASCOE: As you said, a top official, Kim Yong Chol, from North Korea is supposed to deliver a letter from Kim Jong Un today. President Trump said he's looking forward to this letter. We don't know what it will say. But the White House is saying that there have been substantive talks between the U.S. and North Korea in recent days. And Secretary Pompeo says real progress has been made by both sides in the last 72 hours or so.

MARTIN: Right. But we don't exactly know what that progress is. We know the U.S. has made it a precondition of the summit that the North promise to eventually denuclearize. But the North has been intransigent on that point, right?

RASCOE: Yes. And that's the main obstacle that remains right now. The U.S. wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and to give it up - give them up quickly. It's not clear that North Korea would agree to that under - or under what circumstances they would. And so they have to figure out how to get to the same - get on the same page. Secretary Pompeo has acknowledged that this is not - these differences aren't going to be resolved overnight - and that it could take days and weeks to work through these things.

MARTIN: Which is really interesting because we've heard U.S. officials say that they want something big and historic to come out of this summit. And President Trump there now suggesting that this could be more than one meeting. We might see more than one summit. Exactly at what point are we going to know if a first summit even happens, Ayesha? Because June 12 is coming right up.

RASCOE: We don't know yet. We don't know if this letter today will spur the U.S. to go ahead and say the summit is back on. We do know that the White House is saying that they are preparing as if the summit will take place on June 12. It does look like from the public statements that are being made that things are moving in the direction of a summit happening. But we don't know everything that's going on behind the scenes.

MARTIN: Lastly, we should touch on this - President Trump pardoned someone yesterday, conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza, who pled guilty to making illegal campaign contributions in 2014. What do we know about the president's reasons for doing this now?

RASCOE: President Trump said he felt like D'Souza had been treated unfairly. He said he felt like he should've just had to pay a fine instead of being sentenced to five years of probation. So that's why he took the action.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Ayesha Rascoe for us this morning. Thanks so much, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
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