^

World

Top North Korean official lands in US for talks with Pompeo

Christopher Bodeen, Josh Lederman, Matthew Lee - Philstar.com
Top North Korean official lands in US for talks with Pompeo
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

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: June 14, 2022 - 8:14am

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.

June 14, 2022 - 8:14am

The United States and South Korea warnsof a swift response if North Korea conducts a nuclear test, including US military "adjustments," but again offered talks as a way out.

The two allies say that North Korea could at any time test its first nuclear weapon since 2017, after months of escalating tensions including missile tests and Pyongyang's rebuffing of overtures from President Joe Biden's administration.

Meeting his South Korean counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the United States was working with allies in Tokyo and Seoul "to be able to respond quickly should the North Koreans proceed with such a test."

"And we are prepared to make both short- and longer-term adjustments to our military posture as appropriate," he says. — Agence France Presse

June 8, 2022 - 8:09am

North Korea, believed poised to test a new nuclear weapon, has ignored multiple US overtures for discussions as well as offers to help in its Covid-19 outbreak, a US diplomat says.

Speaking after Pyongyang test-launched eight ballistic missiles in a single day Sunday, Sung Kim, the US Special Representative to North Korea, says the country has not responded to months of public and private communications seeking to engage over tensions.

President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have repeatedly said publicly that Washington seeks diplomatic talks with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea "without preconditions," Kim says. — Agence France Presse

May 22, 2022 - 9:24am

US President Joe Biden flies Sunday to Japan for the second leg of a trip intended to reinforce US leadership across Asia in the face of a rising China and dangerously unpredictable, nuclear-armed North Korea.

Biden is leaving South Korea, where he joined newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol for a series of meetings, including discussing expanded military exercises to counter Kim Jong Un's sabre rattling.

As officials from both countries warned that Kim could raise tensions with a nuclear weapon test while Biden is in the region, the US president said the democratic allies must deepen ties.

At a joint press conference with Yoon, Biden cited a global "competition between democracies and autocracies" and said the Asia-Pacific region is a key battleground.

"We talked in some length about the need for us to make this larger than just the United States, Japan, and Korea, but the entire Pacific and the South Pacific and Indo-Pacific. I think this is an opportunity," Biden said. — AFP

April 18, 2022 - 3:08pm

The top US envoy on North Korea arrived in Seoul Monday for talks after Pyongyang ratcheted up tension on the peninsula with an unprecedented blitz of missile launches and hints of a nuclear test.

Pyongyang has carried out more than a dozen weapons tests this year, the latest one over the weekend, a short range test that North Korea claimed would enhance the "efficiency in the operation of tactical nukes".

Sung Kim, the US Special Representative for North Korea Policy, will meet with his South Korean counterpart Noh Kyu-duk and other officials during his five-day visit.

His arrival comes as Seoul and Washington kicked off a nine-day annual joint military drill. Such exercises have always infuriated Pyongyang, which calls them a rehearsal for war. — AFP

March 26, 2022 - 6:34pm

The United States calls for tougher international sanctions against North Korea at the UN Security Council, accusing Pyongyang of "increasingly dangerous provocations" after it test-fired its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile.

"The United States calls on all member states to fully implement the existing Security Council resolutions," US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield says during the meeting convened to discuss North Korea.

"Because of DPRK's increasingly dangerous provocations, the United States will be introducing a... Security Council resolution to update and strengthen the sanctions regime" that was adopted in December 2017, she says, using the official acronym for North Korea. — AFP

Philstar
  • Latest
  • Trending
Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

FORGOT PASSWORD?
SIGN IN
or sign in with