North Korea's Kim Yong Chol, center, leaves a hotel in New York, Wednesday, May 30, 2018. The senior North Korean official arrived in New York on Wednesday in the highest-level official visit to the United States in 18 years, as President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un sought to salvage prospects for a high-stakes nuclear summit.
AP/Andres Kudacki
Top North Korean official lands in US for talks with Pompeo
Christopher Bodeen, Josh Lederman, Matthew Lee (Philstar.com) - May 31, 2018 - 8:36am

NEW YORK — A senior North Korean official arrived in New York on Wednesday in the highest-level official visit to the United States in 18 years, as President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un sought to salvage prospects for a high-stakes nuclear summit.

Kim Yong Chol, the former military intelligence chief and one of the North Korean leader's closest aides, landed mid-afternoon on an Air China flight from Beijing. Associated Press journalists saw the plane taxi down the tarmac before the North's delegation disembarked at JFK International Airport.

During his unusual visit, Kim Yong Chol had dinner Wednesday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who traveled from Washington to see him. The two planned a "day full of meetings" Thursday, the White House said. Their talks will be aimed at determining whether a meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un, originally scheduled for June 12 but later canceled by Trump, can be restored, U.S. officials have said.

The talks come as preparations for the highly anticipated summit in Singapore were barreling forward on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, despite lingering uncertainty about whether it will really occur, and when. As Kim and Pompeo were meeting in New York, other U.S. teams were meeting with North Korean officials in Singapore and in the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone.

"If it happens, we'll certainly be ready," White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the Singapore summit. Regarding the date for the meeting, she added, "We're going to continue to shoot for June 12th."

North Korea's flurry of diplomatic activity following a torrid run in nuclear weapons and missile tests in 2017 suggests that Kim Jong Un is eager for sanctions relief to build his economy and the international legitimacy the summit with Trump would provide. But there are lingering doubts on whether Kim will ever fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he may see as his only guarantee of survival in a region surrounded by enemies.

Trump announced that Kim Yong Chol was coming to New York for talks with Pompeo in a tweet on Tuesday in which he said he had a "great team" working on the summit. That was a shift from last week, when Trump announced in an open letter to Kim Jong Un that he had decided to "terminate" the summit following a provocative statement from the North.

Pompeo, Trump's former CIA chief, has traveled to Pyongyang twice in recent weeks for meetings with Kim Jong Un, and has said there is a "shared understanding" between the two sides about what they hope to achieve in talks. South Korean media speculated that Pompeo could make a third trip to Pyongyang and that Kim Yong Chol was carrying a personal letter from Kim Jong Un and might push to travel to Washington to meet with Trump.

North Korea's mission to the United Nations in New York is its sole diplomatic presence in the United States. That suggests Kim might have chosen to first go to New York because it would make it easier for him to communicate with officials in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital. North Korea and the United States are still technically at war and have no diplomatic ties because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Trump views a summit as a legacy-defining opportunity to make the nuclear deal that has evaded others, but he pledged to walk away from the meeting if he believed the North wasn't serious about discussing dismantling its nuclear program.

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. Trump had mused that Kim's "attitude" had changed after the North Korean leader's surprise visit to China two weeks ago, suggesting China was pushing Kim away from the table. Trump's letter, the aides said, was designed to pressure the North on the international stage for appearing to have cold feet.

White House officials maintain that Trump was hopeful the North was merely negotiating but that he was prepared for the letter to mark the end of the two-month flirtation. Instead, the officials said, it brought both sides to the table with increasing seriousness, as they work through myriad logistical and policy decisions to keep June 12 a viable option for the summit.

Kim Yong Chol is a vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party's central committee. The last official of his stature to visit the United States was Jo Myong Rok, the late first vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, who visited Washington in 2000, South Korea's Unification Ministry said.

The White House emphasized that it has remained in close contact with South Korean and Japanese officials as preparations for the talks continue. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump will host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan on June 7 to coordinate their thinking ahead of the summit. Trump hosted South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week.

Moon, who has lobbied hard for nuclear negotiations between Trump and Kim Jong Un, held a surprise meeting with the North Korean leader on Saturday in an effort to keep the summit alive.

___

Lederman reported from Washington and Bodeen from Beijing. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Zeke Miller and Catherine Lucey in Washington and Hyung-Jin Kim and Kim Tong-Hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

DONALD TRUMP KIM JONG UN NORTH KOREA UNITED STATES
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 8, 2020 - 5:55pm

The United States formally concluded that North Korea ordered the murder of Kim Jong-Nam, a half-brother and potential rival to ruler Kim Jong-Un, with the VX nerve agent.

"This public display of contempt for universal norms against chemical weapons use further demonstrates the reckless nature of North Korea and underscores that we cannot afford to tolerate a North Korean WMD program of any kind," US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

The finding triggered another layer of US economic sanctions against Pyongyang, just as South Korea reported that the regime is ready for talks to end a nuclear standoff.

July 8, 2020 - 5:55pm

US Deputy Secretary of State and North Korea envoy Stephen Biegun pour cold water on reports Washington had sought a meeting with Pyongyang officials, with nuclear discussions at a standstill.

Biegun is on a four-day trip to Seoul and Tokyo to discuss North Korea's denuclearisation.

The visit triggered speculation in the South that Washington was trying to rekindle diplomacy with Pyongyang ahead of the US presidential election in November -- even though the North has repeatedly said it had no interest in talks. — AFP

July 4, 2020 - 5:55pm

A senior diplomat says North Korea does "not feel any need" to resume talks with Washington, days after Seoul called for a summit as it seeks improved ties with Pyongyang.

The statement by the North's vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui comes after former US national security advisor John Bolton reportedly said President Donald Trump might pursue another meeting with leader Kim Jong Un in October. — AFP

April 28, 2020 - 9:58am

US President Donald Trump appears to confirm that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is alive, saying he wished him well after days of speculation over the dictator's whereabouts.

Asked if he had new information about Kim's health, Trump says "yes, I do have a very good idea, but I can't talk about it now. I just wish him well."

"I hope he's fine," Trump continues, speaking at a White House press conference. "I do know how he's doing, relatively speaking." — AFP

December 31, 2019 - 4:44pm

State media says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for "diplomatic and military countermeasures", ahead of a year-end deadline for Washington to change its stance on stalled nuclear talks with Pyongyang.

His latest comments, made during a meeting of top ruling party officials in Pyongyang on Monday, came ahead of his set-piece New Year speech that could flesh out a threat to seek a "new way" forward after the expiration of the year-end deadline.

He spoke for seven hours during the ruling Workers' Party meeting, the North's official KCNA news agency said in a report released Tuesday, calling for measures to rebuild its economy and "diplomatic and military countermeasures for firmly preserving the sovereignty and security" of the isolated nation. — AFP

December 21, 2019 - 4:42pm

North Korea on Saturday warned Washington would only aggravate tensions and "pay dearly" for criticising Pyongyang over human rights, with nuclear negotiations between the two deadlocked.

The international community has frequently condemned North Korea for political repression, and for decades of prioritising its military and its nuclear weapons programme over adequately providing for its people.

Criticising Pyongyang's human rights record would only aggravate the "already tense situation" on the Korean peninsula, "like pouring oil over burning fire", a North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson said, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The statement was in response to concern expressed by a US state department official over North Korea's human rights situation, KCNA said. — Agence France-Presse

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