Published: Fri, June 01, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Top North Korean official, Pompeo meet to discuss summit

Top North Korean official, Pompeo meet to discuss summit

A top North Korean official headed to NY on Wednesday for talks aimed at salvaging a summit between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump on the future of Kim's nuclear program, in the North's highest-level mission to the United States in 18 years.

During a telephone call, the pair "discussed recent developments in North Korea and confirmed they would meet again to continue close coordination in advance of the expected meeting between the United States and North Korea", a White House statement read.

"Kim's official counterpart is Pompeo but he may also push for meetings with (National Security Advisor John) Bolton and even Trump if possible", Chung told AFP. It marks the latest sign that prospects for the summit are growing, just days after it was ostensibly called off by Trump, as teams of US officials have arrived at the Korean demilitarized zone and in Singapore to prepare for the meeting.

Since then, North Korea has rejected US demands for it to unilaterally abandon its nuclear program, which experts say could threaten the United States.

At the same time, a "pre-advance" US team was in Singapore to meet North Koreans.

The two countries, as well as South Korea, have since worked to reschedule the meeting, with the White House this weekend sending a team of American officials to Singapore to meet North Koreans and prepare should the summit go forward.

It's a core issue for Kim and a message President Donald Trump shouldn't ignore as they work to nail down their summit next month in Singapore. The North's arsenal now includes purported thermonuclear warheads and developmental long-range missiles potentially capable of reaching mainland US cities.

Kim Yong-chol, director of North Korea's United Front Department, which is responsible for inter-Korean relations, was spotted in Beijing Tuesday, en route to NY where he could hold talks with USA officials to fine-tune details for a possible summit next month.

Kim Yong Chol's trip comes amid two sets of other pre-summit talks between Washington and Pyongyang. Trump hosted South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week. Jo, who died in 2010, remains the highest-level North Korean official to visit the United States since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Tuesday morning in an appearance on Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends" that the president had "sent over two delegations - one for logistics and one for more diplomatic purposes that are on the ground making the logistic preparations for June 12".

North Korean leader Kim's de facto chief of staff, Kim Chang Son, meanwhile, flew to Singapore, the scheduled site of the meeting, via Beijing late on Monday, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported.

"But, as the president has said", she added, "if it doesn't happen June 12 it could happen thereafter". Sanctions relief would open the door for more trade with China, South Korea and possibly Russian Federation — partners North Korea trusts more than it trusts Washington — and potentially unlock access to global financial institutions.

In Kim Jong Un and Moon's first meeting on April 27, they agreed to seek the "complete denuclearisation" of the Korean peninsula but did not define what that meant or how that would proceed.

Their second meeting came after inter-Korean relations had chilled in recent weeks, with North Korea canceling a high-level meeting with Seoul over South Korea's participation in a two-week military exercise with the United States that ended last week.

North Korea also demanded the United States stop military exercises with South Korea, the North's Rodong Sinmun newspaper said. 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.

Like this: