U.S. envoy en route to Vietnam ahead of N. Korea summit

WASHINGTON. KAZINFORM - The U.S. special envoy for North Korea is traveling to Hanoi on Tuesday to prepare for next week's summit between the two countries' leaders, the State Department said, Yonhap reports.

Special Representative Stephen Biegun is en route to the Vietnamese capital, the host of the second meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un planned for Feb. 27 and 28, the department's deputy spokesperson, Robert Palladino, said.

"He'll be continuing the United States' preparations for the second summit that will take place next week," Palladino said at a press briefing. "A lot of things are being discussed and we are very much looking forward to next week."

Biegun's counterpart, Kim Hyok-chol, was seen in Beijing earlier Tuesday apparently en route to Hanoi.

The two men are tasked with coordinating the agenda for the high-stakes summit, which is expected to focus on fleshing out North Korea's denuclearization and corresponding U.S. measures.

The first Trump-Kim summit in Singapore in June led to North Korea's commitment to "work toward" complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for security guarantees from the U.S.

Biegun and Kim Hyok-chol held three days of talks in Pyongyang earlier this month. But those meetings were characterized by the U.S. envoy as an opportunity to lay out each other's positions, not negotiations, according to a South Korean parliamentary delegation who met with him in Washington last week.

Biegun also lamented the lack of time ahead of the summit, the delegation members said.

"The summit's going to take place next week," Palladino said when asked if everything is on schedule. "Steve Biegun is on his way back right now to tie up the remainder, and we're optimistic and looking forward to next week."

The spokesperson also credited a new approach to negotiations with North Korea.

"This is a top-down approach that allows ... with the chairman (Kim) and the president meeting directly ... that allows for a breadth of actions, frankly, that if successful, could fundamentally transform relations between our two countries," he said.

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