Top North Korean general on way to US ahead of summit

Geneva Stokes
June 1, 2018

North Korea has reportedly dispatched top officials to the United States and Singapore, the latest indication that the on-again-off-again summit with US President Donald Trump may go ahead. Seoul did not confirm reports that the North Korean officials were headed by Kim Chang Son, Kim Jong Un's close associate, and that his American counterpart would likely be White House deputy chief of staff for operations Joe Hagin.

Kim Yong Chol is a former military intelligence chief and now a vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party's central committee tasked with inter-Korean relations.

Trump withdrew from a planned June 12 summit with Kim last Thursday, citing hostile North Korean comments, but has since said the meeting in Singapore could still happen.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a surprise meeting with Kim Jong Un on Saturday, May 26, at the Panmunjom border village between the North and South.

In a twitter message, Trump confirmed that Kim is "heading now to NY".

The delegations at Panmunjom - led respectively by Washington's former negotiator on North Korea, Sung Kim, and Pyongyang's Vice Foreign Minister, Choe Son-hui - met on Sunday and Wednesday.

North Korea's mission to the United Nations in NY is its sole diplomatic presence in the United States.

Meanwhile, despite Trump calling off his meeting with Kim in Singapore on June 12, preparations on both sides of the Pacific proceed as if the summit were back on track.

The US and North Korean governments will need to negotiate the terms and conditions of denuclearisation and the scope of verification of the programme's destruction, Chun said.

He also visited South Korea in February to attend the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics at the start of Kim Jong Un's charm offensive. "The U.S. should ponder over it", the vice foreign minister advised, making it known to the U.S. that North Korea remained willing to talk and "solve problem regardless of ways at any time".

A deal could involve a change in the South Korea-US alliance to meet North Korea's expectations of regime security, and these issues should be discussed ahead of the summit, he said.

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The White House on Thursday morning released Trump's letter to Kim, in which he canceled the planned Washington-Pyongyang summit. Pyongyang in turn threatened the US with nuclear annihilation if Trump did not come to the negotiating table.

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Trump said on Twitter that the summit could take longer than one day. Since then, North Korea has rejected United States demands for it to unilaterally abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

A spokesperson for the North Korean mission to the United Nations said he was unable to confirm that the general was on his way to NY but added that "preparation for the summit is proceeding at the highest level".

North Korea vowed to continue to pursue that goal and took the opportunity to paint itself once again as a reasonable, peace-loving nation, extending an olive branch to the U.S.

Pyongyang also demanded the United States halt future joint military drills with South Korea if it truly wishes for talks with North Korea, the North's Rodong Sinmun said on Tuesday. That was part of what a White House official described as a trail of broken promises by the North that contributed to Trump's decision to pull out of the summit last week.

Moon said on Monday there could be more impromptu talks between the two Koreas in the lead-up to the summit.

After the North's combative statements, there was debate inside the Trump administration about whether it marked a real turn to belligerence or a feint to see how far Kim Jong Un could push the U.S.in the lead-up to the talks.

"We agreed to meet before the U.S". They're both very eager to revive the Trump-Kim summit.

Sung Kim was joined by Allison Hooker, the Korea specialist on the National Security Council, and an official from the Defense Department.

During his unusual visit, Kim Yong Chol had dinner for about an hour-and-a-half with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who traveled from Washington to see him. "As you know, there are meetings going on as we speak in a certain location, which I won't name, but you'd like the location", he told reporters in Washington.

North Korea denied any involvement in the attacks.

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