Top North Korean official heads to U.S. for pre-summit talks


Kim Yong Chol, a former spy chief and trusted adviser to North Korea's leader, was on his way for what would be the highest-level meeting in this week's flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at salvaging an historic summit, U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed in a Tweet on Tuesday.

At a higher level, meanwhile, the North Korean leader's right-hand man Kim Yong-chol flew to NY to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"Our United States team has arrived in North Korea to make arrangements for the summit between Kim Jong Un and myself", President Trump wrote on Twitter.

The former spy chief will be the most senior North Korean official to enter the almost 20 years, having literally sat at Kim Jong-un's right side during last month's breakthrough inter-Korean summit.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his secret meeting with Kim last month gave him hope there was a "real opportunity" to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

A day later, Mr Trump, who frequently exchanged insults and threats with Mr Kim before they began talking about a summit, said he had reconsidered and officials from both countries were meeting to work out details.

Former military intelligence chief Mr Kim, who is now the vice-chairman of his leader's regime, will become the most senior Pyongyang official to travel to the U.S. since 2000.

Sputnik spoke to Dr Zhiguang Yin lecturer in Chinese at University of Exeter about the summit and how even without the United States, it could go ahead.

Kim Yong Chol, who is about 72, is a contentious figure outside North Korea. The U.S. "continues to actively prepare" for the "expected summit" with Kim, she added.

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A three-way summit was proposed by Moon and Kim when they first met at the border village of Panmunjom on April 27, Yonhap said.

USA officials have talked about a comprehensive one-shot deal in which North Korea eliminates its nukes first and receives rewards later.

He was initially booked on an Air China flight to Washington but changed it to a Wednesday flight bound for New York, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported.

Although Trump has not officially announced that the summit, which he abruptly canceled on Thursday, is back on, his staff is acting as though it is.

They allowed Moon to push for a US-North Korean summit that he sees as the best way to ease animosity that had some fearing a war previous year.

The president's tweet also referred in part to two USA delegations overseas holding meetings in Singapore and North Korea with officials on diplomatic issues, along with a logistics team led by deputy chief of staff for operations Joe Hagin.

Kim Yong Chol has been deeply involved in the diplomacy that followed Kim Jong Un's sudden outreach to Washington and Seoul earlier this year.

If the summit takes place, it will be the first ever meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting U.S. president.

The U.S. has made a decision to hold off on implementing major new sanctions on North Korea while attempts to revive the summit are underway, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.