Five signs the US-North Korea summit might still happen

Five signs the US-North Korea summit might still happen
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem MORE's abrupt announcement on Thursday that he would back out of a highly anticipated summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un raised new fears that tensions would rise once again on the Korean Peninsula.

The move, made public in a letter to Kim, came less than three weeks before the June 12 meeting was set to take place in Singapore. In the letter, Trump accused the North of bad faith, and decried the summit's cancellation as a "truly sad moment in history."

But despite initial concerns of a total breakdown in the dialogue with Pyongyang, officials in the U.S. and North Korea have appeared relatively optimistic that a meeting is still possible.

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There's no guarantee that a new summit is on the horizon. The North expressed frustration last week over what it called Washington's insistence on "unilateral nuclear abandonment," and the Trump administration still appears intent on pressing the issue with Pyongyang.

Still, both sides have expressed a willingness to engage in talks, and a picture of continuing diplomatic efforts has emerged over the past 72 hours.

Here's a breakdown of how things have unfolded so far:

Trump strikes conciliatory tone in his letter to Kim

Trump's letter to Kim on Thursday morning announcing his withdrawal from the June 12 summit bore some of the hallmarks of the president's more antagonistic rhetoric on North Korea. At one point, Trump sought to remind Kim that the U.S. nuclear arsenal was much more "massive and powerful" than that of North Korea. 

But the letter also struck a mournful and conciliatory tone at times. Trump lamented the cancellation as a "missed opportunity" and "a truly sad moment in history."

He also held out the possibility that talks could still come to fruition, writing, "if you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write."

The letter — and reports that Trump dictated the message himself — appeared to suggest that diplomacy was still on the table, and that the future of negotiations rested on the shoulders of North Korea.

North Korea offers measured response to the cancellation

Pyongyang, often known for its aggressive rhetoric, issued a strikingly conciliatory response to Trump's letter on Thursday, saying that it remained willing to talk with the U.S. president. 

"We reiterate to the U.S. that there is a willingness to sit down at any time, in any way, to solve the problem," Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said in a statement carried by state-run media. 

Trump highlighted the North's response in a tweet on Friday morning, calling it "warm and productive."

Trump suggests that June 12 summit could still happen

Trump revealed on Friday that the U.S. was still in touch with North Korea, and expressed hope that the two countries could revive the summit, even suggesting that a meeting could still come on June 12.

“We’ll see what happens. We’re talking to them now,” Trump said on the South Lawn of the White House as he prepared to board Marine One. “They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it.”

He also hinted that, by backing out of the meeting, he was hoping to gain leverage in potential negotiations with the North, remarking that "everybody plays games."

In a surprise development on Saturday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that a "pre-advance team" would travel to Singapore as previously scheduled "to prepare should the summit take place."

Pompeo tells South Korean counterpart that U.S. is committed to "dialogue" with Pyongyang

In a phone call with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Friday, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoIran lays foundation for second nuclear plant: report Pompeo knocks Iran's treatment of UN nuclear inspector Reagan statue unveiled near site where he called for Gorbachev to 'tear down' Berlin Wall MORE emphasized that the Trump administration remained committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. 

He also vowed to "create conditions for dialogue with North Korea," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. 

The conversation appeared to amount to an effort to reassure a key U.S. ally that Trump did not intend to further escalate tensions with North Korea and that Washington still viewed diplomacy as its primary tool for dealing with Pyongyang.

Kim meets secretly with South Korea's president to discuss potential summit 

The Korean leaders met quietly on the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone separating the North and the South on Saturday in the border village of Panmunjom, where they discussed the prospect of renewed talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

The roughly two-hour meeting was the second between the two leaders in less than a month, and was not announced until after it had ended. South Korea's Blue House posted photos on Twitter on Saturday, showing Moon and Kim embracing one another and speaking across a table.

But the meeting signaled that Kim is still willing to engage with Seoul, a key U.S. ally, despite having scrapped a meeting between the two countries last week in response to joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.