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: October 6, 2018 - 1:53pm

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.

October 6, 2018 - 1:53pm

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in Tokyo on Saturday for talks with Japanese officials ahead of his trip to North Korea.

Pompeo is under pressure to make progress on convincing North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons as President Donald Trump seeks to meet with leader Kim Jong Un for a second time after their June summit in Singapore.

Pompeo will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Kono later Saturday to discuss their North Korea policies before heading to Pyongyang on Sunday. — AP

October 2, 2018 - 6:11pm

North Korea rules out dismantling its nuclear arsenal in exchange for the US declaring an end to the Korean War, saying a peace treaty should "never be a bargaining chip."

The North has for decades demanded that the US formally declare the end of the 1950-53 conflict that was halted only with an armistice, saying an official end to the war would ease tensions on the flashpoint peninsula. — AFP

September 22, 2018 - 10:26am

President Donald Trump says he won't rush into any deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump tells a rally in Springfield, Missouri, that he received a "beautiful letter" two days ago from Kim. But he's not saying what the letter said.

The president and Kim met in June in Singapore to discuss denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

Trump says he has a "very good" relationship with Kim. He notes that North Korea has returned Americans being held there, as well as remains of American service members who went missing during the Korean War.

The president also notes that North Korea has not conducted any ballistic missile or nuclear weapons tests in months.

Trump says, "Let's see what happens," adding "I'm in no rush." — AP

September 6, 2018 - 4:00pm

North Korea has reiterated its calls for the United States to agree to a declaration to formally end the Korean War, which it says President Donald Trump promised during his June summit with Kim Jong Un.

The column in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper also says the Trump administration must discard its "stubborn" stance that the North must denuclearize first before the United States agrees to a peace treaty.

The article says North Korea has shown "goodwill and generosity" through actions such as returning U.S. war remains and dismantling a nuclear testing ground but that the United States has been failing to respond with corresponding measures to improve relations.

The article came a day after a South Korean presidential delegation visited Pyongyang and set up an inter-Korean summit on September 18 to 20. — AP

September 6, 2018 - 12:21pm

A South Korean presidential official says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told him he still had faith in U.S. President Donald Trump despite ongoing difficulties in the nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

Chung Eui-yong says that Kim emphasized during a meeting in Pyongyang that he has not once talked negatively about Trump to anyone including his closest advisers.

Chung says Kim said that he wishes for North Korea and the United States to put an end to their seven decades of hostile relations before the end of Trump's first term.

After their June summit in Singapore, Trump and Kim announced a vague statement about a nuclear-free peninsula without describing when and how it would occur. Post-summit nuclear negotiations were rocky and quickly settled into a stalemate. — AP

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