World

US, NKorea officials meet ahead of summit

By AAP Newswire

US and North Korean officials are holding talks in a late bid to narrow differences before leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump hold a summit in Singapore.

The two leaders arrived in the tropical city-state on Sunday, aiming to finding ways to end a nuclear stand-off on the Korean peninsula.

Key gaps remain over what denuclearisation would entail for two countries that have been enemies since the 1950-1953 Korean War, and the officials were trying to push the agenda forward before their leaders meet on Tuesday.

Commenting for the first time on the agenda, North Korea's state-run KCNA news agency said the two sides would exchange "wide-ranging and profound views" to re-set relations. It heralded the summit as part of a "changed era".

Discussions would focus on "the issue of building a permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean Peninsula, the issue of realising the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and other issues of mutual concern," KCNA said.

In the lead up to the summit, North Korea rejected any unilateral nuclear disarmament, and KCNA's reference to denuclearisation of the peninsula has historically meant that Pyongyang wants the US to remove its "nuclear umbrella" protecting South Korea and Japan.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is also in Singapore, said in a tweet that Washington was "committed to the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".

A Trump administration official said the US side was entering the talks with a sense of optimism and an equal dose of scepticism, given North Korea's long history of developing nuclear weapons.

Trump flew into Singapore's Paya Lebar Air Base aboard Air Force One on Sunday, fresh from a divisive G7 meeting in Canada with some of Washington's closest allies that further strained global trade ties.

Kim had arrived hours earlier on a plane loaned by China, which for decades has been North Korea's only major ally. Both leaders were greeted on arrival by Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

When Trump and Kim meet at 9am (1100 AEST) on Tuesday they will be making history as leaders of their two countries have never met previously - or even spoken on the telephone.

A US official says the leaders will hold a one-on-one meeting that could last up to two hours. Later, a meeting including officials could last another hour.

The summit's venue is the Capella hotel on Sentosa, a resort island off Singapore's port with a Universal Studios theme park and man-made beaches.

Trump is currently meeting Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong while Kim has no official agenda on Monday.

Kim is accompanied by top officials including foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, defence minister No Kwang Chol and Kim Yong Chol, a close aide who has been instrumental in the diplomacy that culminated in Tuesday's summit.

His younger sister Kim Yo Jong, who led a North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, was also spotted in his delegation.

Officials who arrived with Trump include Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.