WASHINGTON -- Senior officials staged a flurry of calls and top-level meetings on Friday as they scrambled to make a proposed nuclear summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un a reality.
There was no immediate breakthrough, but North Korea's foreign minister was to remain in Stockholm into Saturday for further talks with Swedish leaders, as the Scandinavian intermediary strives to pave the way for talks that could end a threat of nuclear war.
From Washington, Trump called his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in, whose government last week passed an apparent summit invitation to Trump from Kim. Trump accepted on the spot and triggered a race to set a credible agenda for what could be a historic breakthrough.
At the same time, foreign ministers Kang Kyung-wha of South Korea and Taro Kono of Japan were in Washington for talks at an under-staffed US State Department, left in turmoil by Trump's abrupt and brutal Twitter-sacking of former secretary of state Rex Tillerson.
"I think we're cautiously optimistic that the talks will happen and that this will be a breakthrough for a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue," Kang told the PBS NewsHour.
The abrupt decision to accept the summit has triggered much skepticism from Korea observers but, after his call with Moon, Trump's White House remained cautiously optimistic that his strategy of making military threats backed by crippling real-world sanctions had forced Kim's hand.
Trump and Moon "agreed that concrete actions, not words, will be the key to achieving permanent denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and President Trump reiterated his intention to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by the end of May," the White House said.
"The two leaders expressed cautious optimism over recent developments and emphasized that a brighter future is available for North Korea, if it chooses the correct path."