Top North Korean official heads to US for pre-summit talks

Geneva Stokes
May 31, 2018

He appeared at the Beijing airport Wednesday, and South Korean-based Yonhap News agency cited diplomatic sources as saying that Kim was on an Air China flight to NY that departed later in the day. Previous talks between United States and North Korean officials - including two meetings between Kim and Pompeo - have failed to yield clarity on the denuclearization issue. Kim Jong Un agrees with me on this. Kim Young Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to NY.

The White House on Thursday morning released Trump's letter to Kim, in which he canceled the planned Washington-Pyongyang summit. Trump later confirmed this information in his Twitter.

A USA diplomat said a waiver would have to be granted for such an individual to enter the United States, although it was likely one would automatically be given under extraordinary circumstances such as these.

The former spy chief will be the most senior North Korean official to enter the almost 20 years, having literally sat at Kim Jong-un's right side during last month's breakthrough inter-Korean summit.

Kim Bum-soo has more. South Korean media speculated that Pompeo could make a third trip to Pyongyang after Kim Yong Chol's USA trip.

"It will happen!", the president said, confirming that a USA team "has arrived in North Korea to make arrangements for the summit" between himself and North Korean leader Kim. Since then, he has suggested the summit could be back on, and Kim Yong Chol's trip to the USA seems to imply that preparations for a meeting could be in the final stages.

Still, with only a few weeks left until the scheduled summit, such talks are unlikely to reconcile the differing positions over Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal, he said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un committed in their surprise meeting to sitting down with President Donald Trump and to a "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula".

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Diplomatic Duels: What Now for the Trump-Kim Summit?
US officials traveled to North Korea on Sunday to discuss the upcoming summit which President Trump abruptly canceled on Thursday. According to the State Department, the US team met with North Korean officials at the same DMZ site, the village of Panmunjom.

"The first meeting would not solve all, but solving even one at a time in a phased way would make the relations get better rather than making them get worse", North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan said in a statement carried by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency, which mainly targets external audience. Details of those talks hadn't emerged yet.

In their second meeting in a month, Moon said Kim Jong Un expressed a willingness to cooperate to end confrontation and work toward peace for the sake of a successful summit with Trump. "We offered concessions to the North Korean regime in exchange for promises to end their nuclear weapons program only to see them break those promises and abandon them". Pyongyang in turn threatened the US with nuclear annihilation if Trump did not come to the negotiating table.

If Trump is unable to negotiate those weapons away and unwilling to live in a world where North Korea poses a nuclear threat, then "you're going to have to do something to go after them at some point", the senator said.

While there was speculation that he then boarded a New York-bound China Air flight, there was no sign of him when the plane arrived at Kennedy Airport on Tuesday, reporters there said.

On Sunday U.S. negotiators, headed by Washington's ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, began meeting North Korean counterparts in the truce village of Panmunjom that divides the two Koreas. As you look at the moves by North Korea, do you think they are serious about getting rid of their nuclear weapons?

The warming ties between the two countries chilled after President George W. Bush took office in January 2001, taking a tough line on the North. It did not say whether Choe would be accompanying Kim Yong Chol. Both Seoul and Washington imposed sanctions on him in recent years.

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said he was to arrive in NY on Wednesday.

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