Top North Korean officials travel to US, Singapore in summit preparations

Minnie Murray
May 31, 2018

General Kim Yong Chol, right-hand man to the North Korean leader, will meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in NY, officials said.

The North Korea Leadership Watch website described Kim Yong Chol as sarcastic, hard to work with, and somewhat independent because it said he is "not properly deferential to his superiors".

The North has previously used the term to demand the United States pull out its 28,500 troops in South Korea and withdraw its so-called nuclear umbrella security commitment to South Korea and Japan. Thank you very much, Scott.

Kim Yong Chol was seen at Beijing's airport just after noon on Wednesday as he was heading to his connecting flight.

According to Moon, Kim was concerned if he could trust the USA with the security of its regime in return for denuclearisation.

"It's moving along very nicely", Trump said at the White House during a meeting with a U.S. prisoner freed by Venezuela.

Chung Sung-yoon, an analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification, said Kim Yong Chol will be the most senior North Korean official to step onto U.S. soil since Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok met President Bill Clinton in 2000.

A US delegation was holding talks with North Korean officials on May 27, 2018, at th border truce village od Panmunjom amid preparations for a summit between the two countries' leaders, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

The New York talks suggest that planning for the unprecedented summit, initially scheduled for June 12, is now moving ahead - and possibly into a more advanced phase.

North Korea has dispatched top officials to the United States and Singapore, media reported on Tuesday, the latest indication that the on-again-off-again summit with US President Donald Trump may go ahead.

"The North's distrust towards the USA might have been amplified, as it has witnessed Trump scrapping many deals that the preceding Barack Obama government had clinched, such as the climate change accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Iranian nuclear deal", Kim Tae-hyun, a diplomacy professor at Chung Ang University, said. But it wasn't immediately known what else he would do in the United States. But Pyongyang has vowed it will never give up its nuclear deterrence until it feels safe from what it terms USA aggression.


North Korea has tested dozens of missiles of various types in the past two years, including one launch of its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile, which is theoretically capable of hitting anywhere in the United States, on November 29.

Asked what would need to happen for the summit to take place, Sanders told reporters: "Denuclearization has to be on the table and the focus of the meeting".

In any case, he is expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a key step in finalizing the scheduled Trump-Kim summit in Singapore on June 12.

"We're still finalising exactly what these meetings will look like", she said.

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.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Trump will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (shin-zoh AH'-bay) at the White House on June 7. Moon said North Korea was not convinced it could trust security guarantees from the United States.

Kim had requested a meeting with Moon to clarify what the "Trump model" meant, Yonhap news agency of South Korea reported, citing an unidentified foreign affairs source. He was linked by U.S intelligence to a cyber attack on Sony Pictures in 2014.

After the second meeting this month, Pompeo returned to Washington with three Americans who had been detained in North Korea.

Kim was probably headed to NY, where North Korea has a mission to the United Nations, rather than to Washington because it was easier for him to get a visa there, another U.S. diplomat said.

But Washington wants North Korea's nuclear program to be the focal point.

INSKEEP: Ryan Crocker, former USA diplomat, was on the program elsewhere in the program today and says at one point, these are two unpredictable regimes. More time is needed before the two sides agree on the timing of nuclear dismantlement and level of rewards.

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