One of the top North Korean officials is coming to New York and will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Meanwhile, meetings are taking place, he said, in preparation of a summit between Trump and the communist dictator Kim Jong Un. The summit is planned on June 12 in Singapore.
“We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea,” Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday, May 29. “Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!”
Kim Yong Chol, vice-chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, was previously the director of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, the North’s main intelligence agency.
He will meet with Pompeo later this week, the White House said in a Tuesday release—the most senior North Korean official to meet with top officials in the United States since 2000.
During the historic meeting of North and South leaders on April 27, they agreed to seek the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula. Plans were then already underway for Kim Jong Un’s summit with Trump.
Trump called the June 12 summit off on May 24, after North Korea pulled out of a scheduled second meeting with South Korea, threatened to call off the summit, raised the prospect of nuclear war, and insulted Vice President Mike Pence.
“I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in a published letter to Kim Jong Un.
North Korea responded with a conciliatory statement and Trump said on May 25: “very productive talks” were underway to reinstate the summit.
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.
“The two leaders candidly exchanged views about making the North Korea-U.S. summit a successful one and about implementing the Panmunjom Declaration,” South Korea’s presidential spokesman said in a statement.
And on Sunday, the U.S. State Department said American and North Korean officials had met at Panmunjom. Sung Kim, the former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and current ambassador to the Philippines, led that American delegation, an American official told Reuters.
The preparations now seem to be in full swing.
Kim Jong Un’s de facto chief of staff, Kim Chang Son, meanwhile, flew to Singapore via Beijing on Monday night, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported.
At the same time, a “pre-advance” team was traveling to Singapore to meet with North Koreans, the White House said.
U.S. government officials, including the White House deputy chief of staff for operations Joe Hagin, left U.S. Yokota Air Base in Japan for Singapore on Monday, NHK said.
Choe Kang Il, a North Korean foreign ministry official involved with North America issues, was also spotted at Beijing Capital International Airport, according to Yonhap. It did not say whether Choe is accompanying Kim Yong Chol.
Kim Yong Chol has been a central player in the recent negotiations between North Korea and South Korea, as well as the United States.
He was part of the North’s delegation to the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea; he joined Kim Jong Un in both of his two meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April and May; and hosted Pompeo when he visited Pyongyang most recently early this month.
The United States and South Korea blacklisted Kim Yong Chol for supporting the North’s nuclear and missile programs in 2010 and 2016, respectively.
Due to sanctions against him, Kim Yong Chol is banned from visiting the United States normally. Any visit to the United States would indicate a waiver was granted.
During his tenure as a senior intelligence official, Kim Yong Chol was accused by South Korea of masterminding deadly attacks on a South Korean navy ship and an island in 2010, and was linked by U.S. intelligence to a cyber attack on Sony Pictures in 2014. North Korea denied any involvement in the attacks.
Epoch Times reporter Ivan Pentchoukov and Reuters contributed to this report.