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: November 5, 2019 - 11:25am

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.

November 5, 2019 - 11:25am

Pyongyang says the possibility of talks between nuclear-armed North Korea and Washington is "narrowing" after the US State Department reaffirmed its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Last month the North walked away from working-level nuclear talks with the US in Sweden, saying it was disappointed at the lack of "new and creative" solutions offered by Washington.

The process has been deadlocked since the Hanoi summit between leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump broke up in February amid disagreement over sanctions relief and what the North would be willing to give up in return. — AFP

October 27, 2019 - 11:14am

North Korea says Sunday the United States must not exploit the "close personal relations" between Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump as negotiations over Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal remain deadlocked.

Talks between Pyongyang and Washington have stalled since a second summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi in February broke down without an agreement.

The two have since blamed each other for the failure of the summit, with the North demanding the US bring forward a "new method" by the end of the year.

Kim Yong Chol, who served as the North's counterpart to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo until the collapse of the Hanoi meeting, credited Trump and Kim's close ties for salvaging the diplomacy, but warned they were not enough.

"There is a limit to everything," Kim, now the chairman of the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency. -- Agence France-Presse

October 24, 2019 - 1:08pm

A top Pyongyang official says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump have a "special" relationship, echoing remarks this week by the American head of state.

Analysts said the comments were an indication Pyongyang still hoped to reach a deal directly with Trump over its nuclear programmes, despite Washington's longstanding insistence it give up its weapons before sanctions are lifted.

In a statement carried by Pyongyang's official news agency KCNA, foreign ministry adviser Kim Kye Gwan says he had met the North Korean leader "a few days ago", and "he said that the relationship between him and President Trump is special". — AFP

October 22, 2019 - 1:01pm

The United States was awarded ownership of a North Korean cargo ship that was seized for violating international sanctions, the US Justice Department says.

The Wise Honest — the first North Korean vessel to be seized by the US for sanctions violation — was caught carrying a $3 million shipment of coal in Indonesian waters last year and later handed over to the US.

The latest ruling by the Southern District of New York finalizes the US government's seizure of the North Korean vessel and ends its use in a "criminal scheme," the Justice Department says in a statement.

"This order of forfeiture sinks the Wise Honest's career as one of North Korea's largest sanctions-busting vessels," says Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers. — AFP

September 27, 2019 - 5:07pm

North Korea says US aggression and an obsession with disarmament mean another summit between Washington and Pyongyang is looking doubtful, even as it praised US President Donald Trump as "bold" and "wise".

Washington has "done nothing for the implementing the joint statement" from the first US-North Korea summit held in Singapore last year, Kim Kye Gwan, advisor to North Korea's foreign ministry, writes in a statement carried in Pyongyang's official news wire KCNA.

The official then slammed Washington for its joint military drills with the South, which it has long considered rehearsals for invasion. — AFP

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