Top N.Korean official may visit US, reminiscent of 2000 trip

Larry Hoffman
June 1, 2018

Kim Jong-un's right-hand man will fly to NY on Wednesday to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as part of preparations for the meeting between the North Korean leader and Donald Trump in Singapore next month.

Trump, who met last week at the White House with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, has scheduled a talk for June 7 with another key regional leader, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"The United States continues to actively prepare for President Trump's expected summit with leader Kim in Singapore", she said in a statement Tuesday.

Trump's aides will soon assess whether Kim Jong Un is willing to take serious steps before making a final decision on whether to go ahead with the summit, the USA official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the central committee of the Korean Workers' Party, was seen at the global airport in Beijing, after arriving on a Koryo Air flight from Pyongyang, South Korean news service News 1 reported Tuesday.

The Washington Post first reported that the team, which also included Allison Hooker, the Korea expert on the White House National Security Council, met with Choe Son-hui, the North Korean vice foreign minister.

"Our United States team has arrived in North Korea to make arrangements for the Summit between Kim Jong-un and myself".

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, citing an unnamed source, on Tuesday reported that a separate U.S. "And if President Trump's 'brand, ' and that's the right word here, going into this meeting demands something like that, this is going to end up in a very bad place", Hayden said on ABC's This Week.

General Kim is a notorious figure in South Korea, where he is blamed for masterminding the 2010 sinking of the Cheonan navy vessel that killed 46 South Korean sailors - an attack for which North Korea denies responsibility.

With the proposed summit just weeks away, officials from the US and North Korea have been diligently meeting in order to forge an agreement on denuclearization that the leaders of both countries could sign at the summit. Beijing backs the North's proposal for a phased and synchronized denuclearization process, while the United States insists on a comprehensive one-shot deal in which North Korea eliminates its nukes first and receives rewards later.

Sung Kim is a former USA ambassador to South Korea and was a top negotiator with North Korea in past nuclear talks. "But what I can say from my observation", she adds, "is that the Chinese have no interest in sabotaging the summit with Kim Jong-un".

In October 2000, then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the late dictator father of Kim Jong Un, sent Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok to Washington on a then-unprecedented goodwill mission.

Kim is close to North Korea's leader, and that's important, says a former US envoy, Joseph DeTrani.

The foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday that Lavrov would hold talks with North Korea's foreign policy chief to discuss bilateral issues as well as the overall situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Now a vice chairman of the central committee of the ruling Workers' Party, Kim will be the most senior North Korean official in years to visit the US. It remains unclear whom Kim Yong Chol will meet in the United States.

But subsequent comments from the President and White House officials - as well as a surprise inter-Korean summit - have suggested the summit could be back on.

Kim Yong Chol's trip comes as the United States and North Korea attempt to revive the summit, a potential diplomatic triumph for two countries technically still at war.

Plans for the high profile sit-down were scrapped by Trump last week, but talks have continued.

On Sunday, US negotiators, headed by Washington's ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, began meeting North Korean counterparts in the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that divides the two Koreas. Any visit to the United States would indicate a waiver was granted.

In previous, failed talks, North Korea said it could consider giving up its arsenal if Washington removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.

Before he cancelled the summit, Trump did not rule out an incremental approach that would provide incentives along the way to the North. Moon has insisted he can be persuaded to abandon his nuclear facilities, materials and bombs in a verifiable and irreversible way in exchange for credible security and economic guarantees.

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