N Korean officials en-route to Vietnam ahead of summit

Seoul: Twelve North Korean officials — including Kim Jong Un’s de-facto chief of staff — were en-route to Vietnam on Friday ahead of a second scheduled summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.
The North Koreans had arrived in Beijing and were expected to board a plane bound for the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, Yonhap said, with the high-stakes meeting now less than two weeks away.
“A group of 12 North Koreans, including Kim Chang Son, were on the boarding list,” Yonhap said, citing a source in the capital. Kim Chang Son was part of the team overseeing protocol in the run up to the first Trump-Kim summit and Yonhap said the delegation was expected to have discussions with US officials on the logistical preparations for the Hanoi meeting.
Pyongyang has yet to provide any official confirmation of the February 27-28 summit, which will be the second time the two leaders come together following their June 12 Singapore meeting.
That produced a vaguely-worded document in which Kim pledged to work towards denuclearisation — with no hard timeline agreed.
In preparation for Hanoi, US envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun was last week in Pyongyang for three days of talks with officials.
Biegun said they had been productive, but more dialogue was needed.
“We have some hard work to do with the DPRK between now and then,” Biegun said, adding that he was “confident that if both sides stay committed we can make real progress here.’’
Experts say tangible progress on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons will be needed for the second summit if it is to avoid being dismissed as “reality TV.’’