PV International Desk : A senior North Korean official and the top U.S. diplomat had dinner in New York as President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un try to salvage prospects for a high-stakes nuclear summit. It’s the highest-level official North Korean visit to the United States in 18 years.
Kim Yong Chol, the former military intelligence chief and one of the North Korean leader’s closest aides, landed midafternoon Wednesday 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 for about an hour-and-a-half 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.