World

North Korea top officials flying to US

North Korea top officials flying to US

A US team was in North Korea to plan a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to President Donald Trump, raising expectations that the on-off-on meeting would indeed take place.

The US and Japanese leaders will meet ahead of a much anticipated summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un back on schedule for June 12 in Singapore just days after Trump announced he was canceling it.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is not planning on giving up his nuclear weapons any time soon but is open to the idea of opening a Western hamburger franchise, according to USA officials familiar with a CIA intelligence report.

Moreover, the dispatching of one USA diplomatic team to Singapore, where the June 12 summit was scheduled to take place, and another to the North Korean side of the Korean Peninsula's demilitarized zone for meetings Tuesday with senior North Korean officials, underscored the intensive efforts under way to put the summit back on track.

Kim Yong Chol, the North Korean leader's right hand man, was expected to arrive Wednesday in NY where he will meet later this week with Pompeo, Sanders said.

The Washington Post first reported that the team, which also included Allison Hooker, the Korea expert on the White House National Security Council, met with Choe Son-hui, the North Korean vice foreign minister. He and Pompeo met twice in Pyongyang during Pompeo's first visit, March 31 to April 1, and then again on May 9, when the USA secretary of state accompanied the release of three Americans held captive in North Korea.

Yonhap said Kim Yong-chol's name was on the passenger list for a flight on Wednesday from Beijing to NY.

Even Mr. Trump's critics have credited the president for his negotiating skills in his recent dealings with Mr. Kim, and calling the summit a positive step.

Kim Yong Chol is a vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party's central committee.

Kim is a top lieutenant to Kim Jong Un, and his trip to the US suggests that preparations for a summit between the North's leader and Trump are in the final stages.

Trump successfully negotiated North Korea's release of three American hostages earlier this month. 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.

File image of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and United States president Donald Trump. "What Kim is unclear about is that he has concerns about whether his country can surely trust the United States over its promise to end hostile relations (with North Korea) and provide a security guarantee if they do denuclearization", Moon said.

Moon said on Monday there could be more impromptu talks between the two Koreas in the lead-up to the summit.

It suggests Kim is interested in a peaceful gesture to an American president whose love of fast-food burgers is well known - and who, during the 2016 campaign, had said he wanted to talk nukes over a burger with the North Korean leader.

The foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday that Lavrov would hold talks with North Korea's foreign policy chief to discuss bilateral issues as well as the overall situation on the Korean Peninsula. And a meeting like that happened in 2000 between President Clinton and the No. 2 official in North Korea.

But Kim, through two summits with Chinese President Xi Jinping in March and May, has called for a phased and synchronised process in which every action he takes is met with a reciprocal reward from the United States. Though North Korea had denied responsibility, Gen. Kim reportedly introduced himself to South Korean press-at a historic K-pop performance in North Korea last month-by saying, "I'm Kim Yong Chol, the man you blame of sinking the Cheonan".

The White House emphasized that it has remained in close contact with South Korean and Japanese officials as preparations for the talks continue. He held a welcome-home ceremony in the middle of the night at Joint Base Andrews for the three Americans in yet another sign of improving relations between the USA and North Korea that past presidents were unable to achieve.

Pompeo has travelled 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.

"But, as the president has said", she added, "if it doesn't happen June 12 it could happen thereafter".

Since the 1970s, the United States and South Korea have been holding a major summertime exercise called Ulchi Freedom Guardian that involves tens of thousands of troops.


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