Top U.S. diplomat Pompeo to meet senior North Korean official

Hugh Fox
May 31, 2018

The remarks came in the wake of South Korean President Moon Jae-in's unexpected meeting with Kim Jong-un on Saturday. The president noted Kim Yong Chol's visit, calling it a "solid response" to his letter.

Other delegation members left the hotel in a white minibus. South Korean media speculated that he was carrying a personal letter from Kim Jong Un and may push to travel to Washington to meet with Trump.

But South Korea, which has lobbied hard for the talks between Trump and Kim, has insisted that Kim can be persuaded to abandon his nuclear facilities, materials and bombs in a verifiable and irreversible way if offered credible security and economic guarantees.

Kim Yong Chol was seen at Beijing's airport just after noon on Wednesday as he was heading to his connecting flight.

The planned visit is the latest in a group of diplomatic moves among countries with ties to the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons.

South Korea's presidential office said Moon will personally announce the outcome of Saturday's summit with Kim on Sunday. The talks take place Wednesday in the border truce village of Panmunjom.

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He says Japan also wants to see Pyongyang's ballistic missiles dismantled and the abduction of Japanese citizens to North Korea addressed.

The last known top meeting involving a North Korean official in the United States dates back to October 2000 when U.S. President Bill Clinton met with Jo Myong Rok, a vice marshal who was sent as a special envoy of then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, at the White House.

When he was asked by a reporter at the Beijing airport if he was flying to Singapore for talks with the U.S., he said he was "going there to play", according to footage from Nippon TV.

He has played a central role in the recent thaw in relations between the North and South Korea, as well as the United States.

Mr Moon told reporters on Sunday that Mr Kim "again made clear his commitment to a complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula", and told the South Korean leader that he is willing to cooperate to end confrontation and work toward peace for the sake of the successful North Korea-US summit.

Sanders' statement followed a series of tweets from the President in recent days indicating that the planned summit with North Korea is back on track, with U.S. officials aiming to hold the summit on the previously scheduled date of June 12.

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"We continue to prepare for a meeting", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in Washington as she confirmed that an American delegation was "in ongoing talks with North Korean officials" in Panmunjom in the DMZ, which separates the two Koreas.

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Ivanka Trump was seated in front of Kim Yong Chol, vice-chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, during the Winter Olympics closing ceremony.

The U.S. and North Korea are seeking common ground on the steps it would take for Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons.

US and North Korean officials have been continuing preparations for the possible summit.

The Washington Post, citing a person familiar with the arrangements, said Sung Kim, a former USA ambassador to South Korea and former nuclear negotiator with the North, was leading the preparations on the US side.

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