U.S. envoy to Philippines leads preparations for Trump, Kim meeting

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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U.S. envoy to Philippines leads preparations for Trump, Kim meeting
US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim is a former nuclear negotiator with North Korea and former ambassador to South Korea

MANILA, Philippines – US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, a veteran diplomat and expert on North Korea, is leading preparations for a meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, reports said.

“Sung Kim, a former US ambassador to South Korea and former nuclear negotiator with the North, has been called in from his post as envoy to the Philippines to lead the preparations, according to a person familiar with the arrangements,” the Washington Post reported on Sunday, May 27.

The New York Times also said in its own report, “Before any summit meeting, the American team, led by Sung Kim, a veteran diplomat, is seeking detailed commitments from Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean leader, about his regime’s willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons program.”

Molly Koscina, spokesperson of the US embassy in Manila, confirmed that “a US delegation is in ongoing talks with North Korean officials at Panmunjom.”

“However, we can’t provide further details on the composition of the United States delegation or the substance of private diplomatic talks,” Koscina said.

Expert on Korea 

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Sung Kim previously served as special representative for North Korea policy and deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs at the US State Department.

Sung Kim was a former nuclear negotiator with North Korea. He also worked as US ambassador to South Korea from 2011 to 2014. 

Hailed by Malacañang for his Asian roots, Sung Kim is also the diplomat who managed to improve Washington’s ties with Manila after his predecessor, Philip Goldberg, incensed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte by criticizing his rape joke during the 2016 campaign period. 

Led by Sung Kim, a US delegation on Sunday met with North Korean officials at a border truce village as preparations resumed for a high-stakes, high-drama summit that Trump said held “brilliant potential” for the North.

The apparent progress in the on-again-off-again talks followed a tense and turbulent few days of diplomatic brinkmanship. Within 24 hours of canceling the summit, Trump reversed course, saying it could still go ahead after productive talks were held with North Korean officials. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior multimedia reporter covering religion for Rappler. He also teaches journalism at the University of Santo Tomas. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.