Published: Thu, May 31, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Lavrov meets Kim in Pyongyang, invites him to Moscow

Lavrov meets Kim in Pyongyang, invites him to Moscow

A senior North Korean official and the top USA diplomat have had dinner in NY as President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un try to salvage prospects for a high-stakes nuclear summit.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gets into a vehicle after meeting with Kim Yong-chol on Wednesday.

NEW YORK-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will hold a crucial meeting Thursday morning with the right-hand man to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to see if they can salvage a potential summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in Singapore next month.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down for a steak dinner with an infamous North Korean official as part of a diplomatic frenzy dedicated to resurrecting the cancelled summit between Donald trump and Kim Jong Un. He is the most senior North Korean official to meet top USA officials in the United States in almost two decades and required a waiver from sanctions to travel.

"Since the president's May 24 letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the North Koreans have been engaging with the United States", said Heather Nauert, spokesperson of the U.S. State Department, in another briefing Tuesday.

"Separately, Joseph Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, and the US pre-advance team, including members from the State Department, are in Singapore this week, where they're conducting logistics of the expected summit", spokesperson Nauert added. "We welcome the summits that already took place between Pyongyang and Seoul as well as planned meetings between North Korean and USA leadership".

Pompeo, Trump's former Central Intelligence Agency 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.

Kim's personal meeting with Lavrov was likely a move to try to secure Russia - along with China - as another powerful player that can push the United States to ease sanctions and make other concessions, said Anthony Rinna, a specialist in Korea-Russia relations at Sino-NK, a website that analyzes the region. On Thursday, they are expected to discuss final details of denuclearization talks for the summit, which is now expected to take place as anticipated in June.

Pompeo and Kim are looking to agree on the content of summit talks and what more needs to be done to make the potentially historic meeting happen, according to a senior State Department official.

Kim has previously made harsher comments and even threatened to launch nuclear attacks on the United States numerous times.

In Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un welcomed visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the first meeting between a Russian official and Kim as head of state. "It was the first official meeting with him face to face", TASS quoted a source in the minister's delegation as saying.

Meanwhile in Seoul, ex-US Ambassador to Seoul, Sung Kim, a Korean-American who speaks fluent Korean and is an expert on peninsula affairs, is leading a US delegation that includes White House and Defense officials.

North Korea's position going into the meetings with Pompeo in NY, meanwhile, was that a pledge of denuclearization alone should open the way to economic relief, said the official, who is familiar with the talks and spoke on condition of anonymity.

"I want it to be meaningful", he added.

Interested in North Korea?

But a North-U.S. leaders' summit did not come about, and U.S. President George W. Bush took office in January 2001.

Kim Yong-chol, who is making his first USA visit, is the most senior North Korean on U.S. soil since Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok met then-president Bill Clinton in 2000.

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