Preparations for a summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are tightly held but have been under way for weeks, a senior U.S. government official said Friday.
When and where the two leaders will meet has been a growing question since Trump accepted Kim's invitation to a summit last month.
The U.S. president said earlier this week the meeting will be in May or early June.
"There is a process under way to plan for a likely summit between the President of the United States and the leader of North Korea," the official told reporters on background.
Declining to go into details, he added, "Suffice to say that there is an interagency and tightly held process that's been under way for several weeks now."
People with a lot of experience dealing with North Korea have been working on the issue and "all of that knowledge is being marshaled into a sort of a tightly guarded but thorough process."
In terms of communicating with the North in the process, the official said "communication will, by definition, have to be sufficient for us to establish and prepare for a successful summit."
He noted that U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton had "very good meetings" Thursday with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, Chung Eui-yong and Shotaro Yachi. They talked "substantively" about North Korea.
Trump is due to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago, Florida, next week to discuss the upcoming summit with Kim.
"The president has a great deal of respect for Prime Minister Abe's views on Northeast Asian security," the official said. "He will certainly want to know what additional thoughts Prime Minister Abe has beyond those that he's already shared, because they've been in constant contact in recent weeks since President Trump accepted an invitation to meet with Kim Jong-un. So they will go into some detail for sure on that."
Trump is also thankful to his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, for trying to keep the U.S. well informed of his own diplomacy with North Korea, according to the official.
Kim made a surprise visit to Beijing last month -- his first trip abroad since assuming power in late 2011 -- to hold talks with Xi.
The State Department made clear that the venue for the Trump-Kim meeting has not been set.
"There are a lot of countries that would like for these talks to be held there," the department's spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said at a regular press briefing, commenting on Russia's offer to host the summit. "It would certainly be a boon to their economy, and a real feather in their cap. But we've not decided where those meetings would take place yet." (yonhap)