Syria's Assad to meet Kim Jong-un: KCNA

Syria's President Assad 'to visit North Korea'

"I am going to visit the DPRK and meet HE Kim Jong Un", Assad was quoted saying in the report, using the initials for North Korea's official name and referring to Kim using letters that stand for "his excellency".

They replaced older, more conservative officers who have been recently sacked, according to a senior USA official and North Korea leadership analysts in Seoul.

Trump announced Friday the meeting is happening June 12 in Singapore as originally planned, despite canceling it a week prior.

"We have sanctions on, they are very powerful and we would not take those sanctions off unless North Korea denuclearised", she said.

It is now led by General Kim Su Gil with Son Chol Ju as his deputy. Ri was caught on television apparently falling asleep during a meeting of the Central Committee on May 20 and may well have been punished for it.

Kim is said to have spent the night at the North's Embassy in Beijing and will fly back to North Korea on Monday.

With North Korea maintaining that the abduction issue has been settled, Tokyo has asked Washington to raise it in the run-up to the U.S. "They are loyal to Kim Jong Un and no one else".

According to the Yonhap news agency, the new North Korean defence minister is No Kwang-chol, a former first vice-minister, replacing Pak Yong-sik.

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That official said United States negotiators' efforts to press for definitions of immediate, comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation by North Korea had run into opposition from the White House.

David Maxwell, associate director for the Centre for Security Studies at Georgetown University, told the NYT that given the upcoming summit with Mr Trump, a possible visit from the Syrian leader was puzzling.

South Korea's unification ministry confirmed Kim Su Gil's appointment but declined to comment on the others.

"This reshuffle has brought to the fore the officers who can do just that".

Preparations are still underway for Kim and Trump's summit in Singapore, the first time a sitting US President will meet the leader of North Korea.

All the officials who were reportedly promoted were younger than those dismissed, according to Yonhap, including the new general staff chief, Ri Yong Gil, who at 63 is 21 years younger than the outgoing Ri Myong Su.

"They're all young but capable people", Yang added.

There has also been speculation Kim does not wish to leave North Korea for an extended period of time as this may encourage any remaining opponents to his rule to seize the opportunity to stage a coup.

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