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If Pyongyang refuses to offer even the faintest idea of how it will eliminate its nuclear weapons, and it looks like Kim is just playing for time, Trump needs to decline his invitation.

In a letter to North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, Mr Trump had blamed "tremendous anger and open hostility" by Pyongyang, but held out hope that the meeting could happen.

Defense Secretary James Mattis later confirmed that things were likely back on to reporters.

Kim Kye Gwan said North Korea appreciated Trump for having made the bold decision to work toward a summit.

GETTYThe US president called the North Korea summit off
GETTYThe US president called the North Korea summit off

Trump's initial cancellation of the summit blindsided treaty ally Seoul, with President Moon Jae-in calling the move "shocking and very regrettable". Regardless of the motivation, Kim's statement was the latest whiplash development in efforts to diplomatically address what might be the world's most risky standoff.

In his letter, Trump warned Kim of the United States' greater nuclear might, reminiscent of his tweet a year ago asserting that he had a "much bigger" nuclear button than Kim. In his letter, Trump responded in kind, referencing USA nuclear capabilities "so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used". Businessman Kwon Jae-won, 47, said the two Koreas were at an important juncture in their history but doubted Trump's sincerity, dismissing his letter as a "fake political strategy".

"We were informed that the meeting was requested by North Korea, but that to us is totally irrelevant", Mr Trump wrote.

Kyodo News reported senior North Korean officials were also seen en route to Singapore.

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If denuclearization is off the table, why even take the meeting?

Russian president Vladimir Putin said finding a solution to the North Korea nuclear tensions was of great importance to Russia adding that North Korea's sovereignty should be guaranteed. In a country and in a system that practices exquisite diplomatic choreography where everyone reads from the same page, such off-the-cuff pledges are unprecedented in nature, particularly since the US Congress has a big say in foreign policy.

Politico magazine reported that an advance team of 30 White House and State Department officials was preparing to leave for Singapore later this weekend. They stressed, however, there was a "backdoor that's open still". There, former leader Colonel Gaddafi gave up his nascent nuclear programme only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later. When asked if that was a threat, Pence said it was "more of a fact". It is insistent it will not engage in any peace process that jeopardises its leadership or its survival as a state.

In their first summit in April, Kim and Moon announced vague aspirations for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and permanent peace, which Seoul has tried to sell as a meaningful breakthrough to set up the summit with Trump.

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He was not informed of the decision before Mr Trump's announcement, reports said.

Pictures released by the Blue House showed Moon also shaking hands with Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong, who has played a major public role in recent talks with the South, including leading a delegation across the border during February's Winter Olympics.

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