Top North Korea official to meet Pompeo in New York


Kim Yong-chol, left, arriving at his New York hotel ahead of meeting Mike PompeoImage copyright

Image caption

Kim Yong-chol, left, arrived at his New York hotel ahead of meeting Mike Pompeo

The right-hand man to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has arrived in New York to discuss a historic summit with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Gen Kim Yong-chol flew in from the Chinese capital Beijing on an Air China flight.

He is the most senior North Korean to visit the US in nearly 20 years.

President Donald Trump previously cancelled the 12 June summit but both sides have since made fresh efforts to hold it as planned.

Scheduled to happen in Singapore, the historic meeting would be the first between sitting US and North Korean leaders.

Mr Pompeo plans to dine with Gen Kim ahead of talks on Thursday.

US officials have also met North Korean envoys in Panmunjom on the inter-Korean border, while more US diplomats have arrived in Singapore to prepare for the event.

White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders confirmed the leaders still planned to meet next month.

“As the president says, if it happens, we’ll certainly be ready,” Ms Sanders said.

In further diplomatic moves ahead of the proposed summit, Russia announced that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would visit North Korea on Thursday.

He and Mr Pompeo spoke on Wednesday for the first time on the phone.

Image copyright

Image caption

Kim Yong-chol is known as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s right-hand man

Salvaging a summit?

By Barbara Plett Usher, BBC state department correspondent in New York

The tone from the White House has been upbeat in recent days and spokeswoman Sarah Sanders sounded optimistic that the summit would go ahead on 12 June, as originally planned.

She would not say, though, what exactly Mike Pompeo needed to hear from Kim Yong-chol in order to make that happen.

Gen Kim is a seasoned nuclear negotiator and trusted aid to Kim Jong-un. He would have the authority to give details about what Pyongyang can and cannot put on the table when it comes to negotiations on dismantling its nuclear weapons.

The fact that such a high-level North Korean official has come to the US to try and patch things up shows how much both leaders want the summit to go ahead.

President Trump cancelled the proposed summit in a letter, blaming “tremendous anger and open hostility” from North Korea.

The country had strongly objected to statements by Trump administration members comparing North Korean denuclearisation to Libya’s.

Former Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi gave up his nuclear programme only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later.


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